“What if God is not mad at you?” This question from James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful God sets up the psychological dilemma of today’s world. Many raging conflicts between races and between believers and even between individuals hinge on this concern: “What do I have to do so God won’t be mad at me?” Those who fear displeasing their God or who are determined to foist their version of God on the rest of us cause personal distress, societal dysfunction, and world-wide terror.
Smith goes on to ask, “What if God were . . . a God who responds to us with ‘absolute delight’ regardless of how we look or feel, or what we have done or have not done?” This question leads right to the next one, “Can it be true that we don’t have to be perfect to please God?”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I read a statement by Donald Miller in Scary Close, his account of decades spent creating a phony image of himself because he viewed his “real” self as flawed. Miller says, “Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either.” What a comforting statement! Grace requires imperfection.
Our false understanding of God as someone who demands perfection makes us “toe the line” that God never created. It keeps us from relaxing in our own life. It makes us wish reality away. If we can’t accept that we will never be perfect, we (like Adam and Eve) can’t be naked before God – even though God always sees who we really are. As a result we have to fear being vulnerable before other humans as well; we have to look good to be accepted.
Paul had to learn that lesson. He repeatedly asks God to take something about himself -some weakness – away. And he records God’s response for our benefit: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV). The Message records this statement as, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” In other words, if we accept our imperfections, God can use those to make himself known in the world.
Our world is full of fearful, angry and vindictive people. (Just listen to the Presidential hopefuls.) Eugene Peterson has said, “Whatever job we get and whatever task we are assigned can serve as a container for grace” (Practical Resurrection). As wounded healers, our calling is to become a container for grace! We have experienced a God who loves with amazing grace. Our world badly needs to see that grace in action from us.
image of jar from www.neverjustexist.org; quote by slideshare.net