I've been looking through old journals, thinking I'd share some things I've written over the years about the cross, resurrection, as we approach them this year. This is an entry from April 3, 2003:
"...Grace cannot prevail until law is dead, until moralizing is out of the game. The precise phrase should be, until our fatal love affair with the law is over--until finally and for good, our life-long certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed." Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three
What a powerful way to put it. It's true--we want it all to be fair, to have 'what goes around comes around.' We want--even those of us who profess to be Pauline, Luther-loving, grace-believing evangelicals--we want our efforts to count for something. We want our good works, our 'trying', to tip the scale in our favor. We can't get it through our work-ethic, Puritanical skulls that we absolutely CANNOT earn it. It doesn't matter what we do, how much we fail--or don't. The price was paid. PERIOD.
"There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:23-24
Capon finishes this thought with this prayer: "Restore to us the comfort of merit and demarit. Prove to us that there is still something we can do, that we are still...the masters of our relationships. But do not preach us grace. We insist on being reckoned with. Give us something, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance."
This is, in part, why Paul speaks of 'the scandal of the cross.' It goes against the grain of our score-keeping flesh that we don't have to--cannot, actually--Do anything to earn our way to heaven. We are so used to doing in order to get. To working for it. But He loves us before we do anything. He died for us eons before we were thoughts in any mind but His. That's what this High holy season is about.
But if I can't be holy so He'll love me, I definitely want to be holy because He loves me. It's like Jack Nickolson telling Helen Hunt in "As Good as It Gets": "You make me want to be a better man." Jesus--His Life, His death for me, His resurrection--make me want to be a better human being. Exactly because He loves me just as I am, right here, right here on my couch in my pjs, tired body, migraine-throbbing head, tingling limbs, lazy flesh. He loves me. Purely, wholly, full of grace, He loves me to death. To His very death.