Gambling on Grace

The Gamble
“He must be broken, and seek forgiveness.”
Emissary of the Almighty Flamethrower

In some ways, seeing the gospel as a white bearded Almighty, throwing down fire and demanding penitence, was easy. It allowed me to justify the arrogance of being elect, and it enabled me to keep at arms length those souls who really needed forgiveness…you know them-they cuss, they question, they wear gray ponytails, some look like they play for ZZ Top-and what redeeming value can be found in pumping “Sharp Dressed Man” through one’s earbuds? They like bourbon with their cigars. Because they spend so much time doing all those awful things, their children are at risk. If those poor, unelect souls would wear out their knees in agonizing prayer, they would know that Almighty Flamethrower was dangerous, and they would get their theological act together, shave, put some sanctified music on. And then, their children would have hope that by following their own sanctified habits of spiritual protection and cleanliness, they too would emerge into adulthood bathed in purity, well shorn and ready for a defense of that gospel, with all the intellectual armor needed to keep themselves out of the way of those flames the Almighty hurled when he was pissed at them.

Yep, that’s the way God worked.

“Dad, don’t let them do that to me again! I keep telling the truth, and they keep telling me I have to apologize.”
The Deerslayer

The Deerslayer, all of 11 years old was caught in a controversy, he was telling the elect they had their story wrong-something the elect couldn’t countenance. The emissaries of the Almighty Flamethrower had come to our doorstep to teach a lesson in brokenness. And I wasn’t “fine” with it. I wasn’t sure what was right. I had always been on the side of the Flamethrower. Someone was about to be a heretic, and the emissaries were quite sure it wasn’t them.

Grace, in the form of real healing and forgiveness, had recently entered our lives, the Deerslayer and me. When I admitted those agonizing prayers only made me sleepy and insecure, those guys with the ZZ Top beards showed up and listened. The emissaries thought I had lost my mind. My new, scruffy friends had about them the earthy scent of authenticity. They knew the Father who threw a huge party upon the return of his debauched, rebellious son. And they reached out a hand to rescue the arrogant rule follower too. The emissaries smelled like smoke.

And so…we gambled…The Deerslayer, his mom and me…we went with Grace. We went with the Father who’s Son warned us about harming His little ones. We took him at his Word, which was good. We remembered that the Deerslayer’s real Father has in mind for him a life we cannot control, but one he will have to engage. We chose to stand in The Deerslayer’s defense, to walk with him, just as the Son walks with us.
The emissaries of the Flamethrower warned us, we were teaching rebellion by refusing their authority. We were leaving the eternal safety net, and it would be very dangerous for us from here…

The Payoff
“I want to take my faith to heart, not just do it because its what my family does.”
The Deerslayer on the day of his baptism.

“Dad, I like your weird friends.”
The Deerslayer, referring to those ZZ Top guys

Now and then I get asked about how it has happened that I enjoy that kid with all the questions who likes to walk around with firecrackers in his pocket and makes smart assed comments about my height and hair color. I also walk with a Father who gracefully tolerates my questions with a smile, and who enjoys fireworks and a good bourbon too.
I follow His example of Grace

Gamble, my friends. Begin a journey whole heartedly down the path together. It’s messy, it requires trust and authenticity and sometimes friends with ZZ Top beards. It’s scary stuff, but it is full and gritty and real.

It’s a safer bet than you think.


2 thoughts on “Gambling on Grace

  1. I read “Gambling on Grace”. It reminded me that the Christian life is life lived with the spiritual understanding that I must see the plank in my own eye, remove it daily, that I might remove the speck in a brother’s eye. The point being that in Christ we must see about ourselves that we are the chief of sinners, that we may impart grace to the hearer. Otherwise we are nothing but Pharisees.

    Bob Foster
    Gettysburg, PA

    Matthew 7:1-6

    “ Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
    “ Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

    • Bob, my good friend, thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings…but I’m afraid I must politely disagree.

      Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

      The Gamble begins with the idea that when the heart is regenerate, it is made new-and we can trust it. The result is that we no longer wallowing in our shame and chart our faith by how we manage our sin. It is that we are free to be the regenerate beings trusting the Savior, not stuck hoping we are pleasing him with our conduct and faithfulness. We are learning certainly, but no longer as depraved souls grasping for righteousness. That fellowship is our birthright.

      I challenge the idea that we are tasked as parents with exerting force on our children, to direct and manipulate them toward the Kingdom. If that had been my perspective (fearing the flamethrower who looks for that plank)I would have forced him to an admission that he was depraved and had sinned…and I would have forced him to lie in the process. As a result, I believe I would have lost that relationship of trust we share today. The Deerslayer confirms my thoughts in our private conversations…he would have faked church until he had the capacity to make an exit, convinced that my faith was false and the elders (which is how he saw his accusers) were more interested in condemnation than an authentic Christian life.

      I wish we as parents of faith would gamble…that we would trust our Savior and point our children in the direction THEY should go. I challenge the idea that imparting wisdom means protection to the point of keeping kids from having their faith challenged or failing on their own, or being exposed to sin. I also challenge the idea that believers are alway right or that total depravity must be seen the defining element of our children’s character. The gamble in my case occurred when I followed wisdom and a regenerate heart (at the time, my own) and acted on the Deerslayer’s behalf in the same way Christ would act on my behalf.

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