Friday, March 16, 2012

Grace in marriage and discipleship

Here are some extracts from p. 84-85 of the book “ Grace in Practice” by Paul F. M. Zahl.

Here is an example: Suppose a woman marries someone who really loves her. But he has a couple of personal sensitivities. He does not like a mess. In fact, he is a little obsessive about order. He is always picking up after her and implying, by doing so, that she is a slob. This sensitivity of his did not seem very important at first. Other aspects of their life together were good. But the older he gets, the more anxious he becomes when she is just being herself. It is a problem between them, if you want to know the truth. He is becoming more ‘type A’ in relation to the house, and his wife feels like becoming more ‘type B.’ Sometimes she just wants to take the trash and strew it out in the middle of the living room. She is that aggravated by his attitude.

Initially, this marriage had grace in it. But the law, beginning with a fairly small thing, took over. The more he judges her, the more messy she wants to be. ‘Law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied’ (Romans 5:20). We know, from the gospel of grace, that if he would just stop noticing (she calls him ‘Mr. Notice-It-all’), she would probably start picking up her things. Grace begets grace. Law begets resistance.

Here is another example: you start using words with me like ‘accountability,’ or, if you are a practicing Christian, ‘discipleship.’ You start to ‘speak the truth in love’ in my life. You tell me that you intend the criticism you dole out to be for my own good. You tell me there is really love beneath the lecture. But all I can hear is the lecture. My receptors, as an ordinary original sinner, are wired to pick up the law. Tell me one thousand times that your law is in the service of love. I will even tell you I believe you. But I don’t. There is no law in existence that can be heard as grace by sufferers and sinners. The cliché is true: we need unconditional love.


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