In Where Grace Trumps Theology

There are moments in my life where I wish I was desperately intelligent and eloquent. Especially when I’m involved in debates.
In spoken conversations, I usually respond by stumbling over my words and can’t pronounce words correctly. There have been many times when the “L” sound is replaced with the “R” sound (i.e. “really” becomes “rearry” or in a sermon, instead of saying “children” I said, “chirdren”) — never intentional. 20+ years in this country, on top of that, my Korean is fading away – and I still, still have issues with my L’s and R’s (and many other aspects of the English language).

In written words, I don’t think that I’m that great either. Usually, (even with my double checking) there are many grammar and spelling mistakes that (often) take away from what I was trying to say. There’s always a part of me that is insecure about writing because of what teachers and college professors have told me before. Teachers, as helpful they mostly are, often don’t realize the impact of their unbelief in a person’s skill and how that can last a lifetime. You have people like Aaron Rodgers who still hold a “grudge” against a college professor who laughed at him when he told her that he was going to play in the NFL.

But that’s besides the point.

What I really wanted to say today is that there are times when grace needs to trump theology.

We’ve witnessed a horrific tragedy this past weekend. And many people are trying to find answers of how and why this has happened. And also, where was God in the midst of this tragedy.

Sometimes, we have the best of intentions in our responses. We don’t know what to say — so we dip into our bag of “go-to” theological responses and say things like, “This was part of God’s plan. We just have to trust and believe and have faith in God.”

I would imagine — after losing a loved one in a horrific incident, the last thing someone would want to hear is that God was behind all of this and to hold onto faith because we will see what God had planned all along after violently and horrifically taking away your loved one.

Then someone forwarded me a link that has a politician/news pundit explaining that we have spent the past 50 years or so of systematically removing God from — well, pretty much everything. Lawsuits that take away the name of Christ in public places, etc. etc. etc.

He also said great things, though. “Where was God?” He explained that God was with the children. God was with the teachers who sacrificed their safety and lives to protect those children. God was with the first responders.

And I wondered, why couldn’t he have just left it at that response?

Why did he have to go on saying that we are pushing God away from our country — and in our times of need are wanting God to be involved? Trying to answer for God, when the concept of God goes beyond human understanding and comprehension.

I don’t think the people who are mourning and grieving need to hear that, because we are systematically removing God from our country, God wasn’t there to protect the children. Or that things like these are more likely to happen.

Have we not read the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament)?
Ever since leaving Egypt — the Israelites were consistently unfaithful to God. But God remained steadfast with God’s people.

God told the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute to symbolize the unfaithfulness of Israel, then told Hosea to keep her as his wife to symbolize God’s unwavering love for God’s people.
In the book of Jeremiah, there were heavy things laid upon the Israelites. But God said that He would make a new covenant with Israel — where the law will be written in the hearts. God will be their God, and they will be God’s people and ending with,  “If the heavens above could be measured and the foundation of the earth below could be fathomed, only then would I reject Israel’s descendants for what they have done.” (Jer 31:37)

Or how about the Ninevites, who Jonah was supposed to give a message of destruction? After living a Godless life as a culture, when they returned to God, God’s compassion and grace triumphed over God’s judgement of doom.

And that’s only the surface of the accounts of Israelites straying from God, pushing God out of their culture and country, and how God never went away nor abandoned the Israelites.

Sure, our country may have been actively pursuing removing God from public places. No 10 Commandments in a courthouse. No prayers in school. Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. No nativity scene in public places.

But, C’mon. Really? Is God so limited that our frivolous lawsuits and bickering over where God is and is not really going to affect God’s presence in our lives and culture and country and world? Is God really going to adhere to our human-made laws?
If the law says, no prayer in public schools, is God not going to be present in public schools?
Has God become some sort of vampire where God cannot enter a place unless invited?

No matter how unfaithful Israel was — God remained faithful. God’s anger burned, often. But God’s grace, love, mercy and compassion often won out.
He forgave the people. He took them back. They pushed God away. God remained with the people, and when they cried out, God didn’t say, “Too late. Y’all had your chance. I found a new chosen people.” God sent deliverers. God sent prophets. Ultimately, God sent Godself.

Of course, this is what I believe and you can agree or vehemently disagree.

But, when our nation is mourning, we need to be there with hope, compassion, and love not with answers to questions that are beyond our comprehension.

My senior pastor at Mesa Verde once said to me, “There are times where grace trumps theology.”

In times like these, we need to share grace, love, hope, strength, compassion, peace and comfort with one another. Our theology and theodicy should (and needs to) be secondary.


2 thoughts on “In Where Grace Trumps Theology

  1. Excellent points, Joseph. You are right on point. I think this is where our Wesleyan theology differs from our Calvinist brothers and sisters. We don’t maintain that God’s sovereignty means that God is responsible for the evil that takes place. I don’t think God planned what happened in Newtown. I do think that he can redeem even the most heinous evil and bring something good out of it. Not only does grace trump our (sometimes imperfect) theology. Grace trumps evil itself!

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