My husband’s Bible recently fell into the toothy grasp of our 4½-month-old puppy. He chewed around the edges of the leather, chomped and tore out a few pages, and scattered its parts around the living room.
When I got home, my husband handed me the dog-gnawed book and said, “Well, Barney has abridged my Bible.”
As a believer, I’m often tempted to do the same—chew around the edges of Scripture, tearing out passages that are too challenging and chewing and spitting out others. Some portions I swallow whole and un-chewed.
Love your enemy. Pray for those who use you. Walk the second mile. Give to those who ask. Forgive. Don’t throw stones at sinners. Invite them to dinner. Defy the culture. Talk to the woman at the well as you pass through a country where people hate you.
I hoped I could just be forgiven and drive on, enjoying this life at no great cost to myself. But it doesn’t work like that. When I follow Christ, it is for the whole journey—the rough, the easy, and the impossible—including death to myself and perhaps death to my own body.
I prefer uncomplicated grace—easy, willy-nilly grace that doesn’t seem to demand too much.
But real grace is a grace that expects and is able to do impossible things. It encounters racial and worship differences with a radical longing for unity and love. It prays over desperate situations when all hope seems gone. It returns good for evil. It travels across the world to bring hope and physical healing. It chooses to offer forgiveness and prayer to a man who walks into your church and kills your mother and eight other church members while they are praying.
Real grace pursues justice and righteousness together. Truth and love are breathed simultaneously. Hatred is not in our vocabulary, except when we say we hate our sin. Love is the chief thing. To love God and others sums up the law, Jesus said. But how do I hold truth and love in my hands together without confusion or compromise? I don’t know, but I must try—by God’s grace.
An unabridged life doesn’t tear out the hard parts of Scripture. In an unabridged life, I agree to accept the cost and run against the current—not self-righteously, but with hopeful humility. I know that this weird life of love and truth will be misunderstood and that I will get it wrong—most of the time. My sin will rise. I will be prideful or unkind or unwise. I will judge others rather than love them, because I don’t know how to balance holiness and grace like Christ. I won’t love God with my whole heart or others as myself. I will also fail to ask for forgiveness when I should. I will stumble in all these respects and more.
Part of me wants an effortless abridged life. Part of me wants easy. But another part dares to dream and believe for impossible things, like redemption coming though our acts of sacrificial kindness, forgiveness and love—like in Charleston.
That’s what I want way down deep. I want an unabridged, supernatural life—one where I don’t tear out ANY pages.