Lord, please restore to us the comfort of merit and demerit. Show us that there is at least something we can do. Tell us that at the end of the day there will at least be one redeeming card of our very own. Lord, if it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with a few shreds of self-respect upon which we can congratulate ourselves. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. Give us something to do, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance. – Robert Farrar Capon
Grace is humiliating. We don’t often think about it in this light, but it is. It’s humiliating because it reduces us all to the same level. We are all sinners and there is no “decent” sin. Robert Capon, the late episcopal priest who was a prolific writer on grace has captured here why we don’t like grace. It’s indiscriminate. Everybody gets it, it has nothing to do with us, and we can do nothing to contribute to it.
Sinners love grace. They already know their sin and their need of a savior. It’s “good” people, “righteous” people and Pharisees who struggle with grace. People who have spent years grooming their spiritual life suddenly discover they are no better than the local serial killer. All that righteous posturing they’ve been doing means nothing? The Pharisee who thanks God that he is not like the poor publican on his knees crying out for forgiveness will not see the kingdom of heaven because heaven is for people on their knees crying out for forgiveness. It’s the only way in.
We all want something to do. We want to have some part in our righteousness. We’ve been spending our whole life trying to think of ourselves as at least a little bit better than most other people — come on, let’s get some credit here — but grace puts us all on the same level as Paul says, “the worst of sinners.” Otherwise, you don’t get it. You can’t have grace and just a little bit of spiritual pride, too.
If we have to have something to do with our salvation, we cannot be saved.
“Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”