What’s So Amazing About Grace? is the third book that I’ve read by Philip Yancy, and like the other two, this one did not disappoint. Yancey is a revolutionary for his time- a prophet for sure, but one filled with compassion and grace. It’s unusual to find someone who is quick to challenge and call things out that he thinks are wrong, but yet do so in a manner that the message is conveyed, and received, with grace and humility.
The book is divided into 4 sections. The first section introduces the idea of grace and forgiveness, helping the reader get a grasp on what it is, and he gives a lot of stories to inspire the heart towards a better understanding of what it is.
The next section narrows the focus a little, and hones in on what grace looks like played out in the world. When talking about authentic forgiveness, he emphasized how forgiveness has to begin in a person’s heart, and is applied one person at a time. When thinking about racism in America, especially before and during the civil rights movement, we have to realize that the attitude is not going to go away because of some new law or a public apology is given to all African-Americans. The reality is that each person has to have authentic forgiveness in their heart, and then extend that to each person they meet. Forgiveness is always personal, and always affects one person at a time.
In part 3, Yancey walked the reader through some issues surrounding power, moving from the Old Testament to the New Testament. In the O.T., there was kind of hierarchy set up with who could approach God, who could be touched at certain times, who could come make sacrifices (and in a non-human way, certain animals that were clean and unclean). But when Jesus came, he was touching the lepers, who were unclean. He was associating himself with tax collectors and prostitutes, the outcasts of society. Those people who by the O.T. law, would have NEVER been able to approach God. Yancey also gave a lot of stories about interacting with the gay community (even now that I use the term “gay community”, I feel like that’s not a fair way to distinguish them). He has friends that are gay, some a part of the Church and some not, and how he extends grace to them is amazing and inspiring. Interacting with that community is still a hot topic among the Church, so his words are still powerful and need to be heard.
One chapter talks about legalism. Grace can make legalists very very nervous. It makes them/us afraid that after learning about grace, and receiving grace, that we’re going to abuse it. And some people do, it’s true. But i think that those who experience it and then choose to abuse it are probably not really being affected by it.
The last section of the book deals with faith and grace and politics. Yancey’s view is that the church and the political realm should be kept separate. He gives example after example of hwo when the two are married together, things turn ugly. Politics is build on a structure of power and hierarchy that is not what the Church was designed to be built on. Politics is always led by rules of ungrace, where the Church’s actions should always be led and filled with grace. How can the two mingle together?
His three conclusions about church-state relations:
1. Dispensing God’s grace is the Christian’s main contribution.
2. Commitment to a style of grace does not mean Christians will live in perfect harmony with the government.
3. A coziness between church and state is good for the state and bad for the church.
These last few chapters really made me walk through some of the issues surrounding the Church’s role in lawmaking and leading the nation. It’s a sticky situation.
Some final thoughts:
– I think that if Philip Yancey walked into a room, he would find out what he and the person had in common before finding out what the differences are. One reason I think this: when giving some examples of grace-filled ministries, he chose to highlight ones that were founded by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson…people who are very fundamentalist (which are the kind of people that turned Yancey off to God when he was younger), but who he thinks are doing some great things in the community. He’s committed to a grace and unity that many of us youngin’s just don’t have (even if we *say* that we really are committed to unity).
– After reading in this book about the differences forms of legalism, and talking to friends about what legalism is and isn’t, I’ve come to the conclusion that we really don’t have a good grasp on what legalism is or is not. I think that it is something I want to learn more about from Scripture, and try to get a better understanding of.
– I want to be better about being a grace-giving person in the community…not just among the Church. I really want to show the world that the Church loves because Jesus loved us. We’re sinners saved by grace.