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Holding Out for Grace
by Tom Goodman
July 25, 2012

Theologians aren't just found in ivory towers.  We all have an opinion of God and how to relate to him.  Some opinions are just more satisfying than others.

Cancer made a theologian of Austin's favorite son, Lance Armstrong.  According to his 2001 memoir, It's Not About the Bike, the famous cyclist wrote:

The night before brain surgery, I thought about death....  Was I content with myself and what I had done with my life so far?  I decided that I was essentially a good person....  I believed that should be enough.  At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hope I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whether I believed in a certain book, or whether I'd been baptized.  If there was indeed a God at the end of my days, I hoped he didn't say, "But you were never a Christian, so you're going the other way from heaven."  If so, I was going to reply, "You know what?  You're right.  Fine."

Contrast that theology with that of Bono, front man for U2.  In the 2005 book, Bono: In Conversation, the rock star told journalist Michka Assayas why he was grateful that relating to God was based on grace and not performance:

[In Christ's message] along comes this idea called grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff.  Grace defies reason and logic.  Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff....  It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for grace.  I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity."

Performance-based theology is humanity's default setting.  When I find myself operating out of that view, it results in pride at my accomplishments, smugness toward others' weaknesses, disappointment with God when he doesn't repay my obedience to him with a smooth life, and -- worst of all -- it makes me insensitive to my need of a Savior.  Over and over I have to tell myself to, as Bono put it, "hold out for grace."

You are surrounded by theologians.  If they'll hear -- and see -- what grace means to you, it will improve their own theology, too.


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