God’s grace – what Brennan Manning defined as the acceptance of being profoundly and forever beloved by God – is a favorite subject of mine, I freely admit as much.
I talk about grace, preach about grace, think about grace, and write about grace. I hope to one day actually understand grace.
Until that understanding comes, I’ll have to withstand the detractors who find my current knowledge of grace to be inadequate. They deem all my grace-speak as spiritual leniency – it’s far too graceful, I suppose. “You’ve turned the grace of God into nothing but a circus net,” one critic wrote not long ago, “which is a distortion of God’s holiness.”
Well, I am trying to understand, but I like the idea of a circus net. I like it a lot – it is a fortunate choice of words. For if I have indeed turned the grace of God into a circus net, it is because I know what it is like to lose my grip and fall. At such times the “net” had better be below me or I am a goner.
If you don’t believe me, go visit the Golden Gate Bridge. Constructed during the despair of the Great Depression, it became a California icon that has withstood the elements more than seventy years, and there are few living Americans who remember the San Francisco skyline without that bridge.
The roadway of the bridge is about 250 feet above the water. But the suspension towers, at their peak, are 750 feet high. Construction at this altitude, along with contrary winds, icy fog, unpredictable weather, and occasional seismic tremors from below, made for one of the most dangerous places to work in the world.
With all these factors added into the equation, the project moved at a snail’s pace. That is until the bridge’s chief engineer, Joseph Strauss, installed a gigantic safety net beneath the bridge. By giving the workers an increased sense of security, they progressed far more quickly and efficiently than before.
Nineteen workers fell into that net during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and every one of them walked away without a scratch.
So, is this grace? When we slip and fall will we actually be rescued by a soft landing in the catching, loving hands of God? Yes, that seems to be the exact answer from the Scriptures and human experience.
Does this make grace too easy? I don’t know, but until I do, I think I’ll stick with the venerable Charles Spurgeon’s counsel on the matter. “If people do not like the doctrine of grace,” he said, “then give them all the more of it.” Amen.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.