Shame and Grace Part 16 - The Unexpected Gift

Jun 11

Shame and Grace Part 16 - The Unexpected Gift

Tue, 06/11/2013 - 17:35 — Thabo Mokete

When we get the meaning of the first gift, then we are very excited about the second, greater gift. When we truly understand Moses, then we will be most fully delighted over what Jesus gives us.

The Christian Bible presents the mystery of human life through its two main characters: Moses and Jesus. Through the one we learn that we were once wonderful, but were later found to be corrupt and unacceptable. Through the other, we discover that we are actually accepted and are on a journey towards being more than wonderful!

The entire library that is the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament, revolves around the work of Moses, both as liberator and author of a set of books called the Law (Torah). The very notion of “Israel” originates from and is developed through him.

Then the whole collection of the new testament writings revolve around the work of Jesus, as saviour and healer of the world. Even the apostle Paul, with his great philosophic themes could only write about the work of Jesus.

Historically, Moses comes first. But who is Moses really? He is the most enigmatic character ever. For one thing, his existence is not to be found outside of the Bible. That he is credited with having written the first five books of the Bible, especially Genesis, makes him an unparallelled literary genius even by today's standards.

The books of the law leave nothing to the imagination as to the greatness of the man Moses. He climbed to the dizziest heights of humanness, and through his spirituality was able to command earthly forces, such as when he parted the sea1 and dry ground appeared the whole night.

Moses was very clear about what a human being is supposed to be like. The ideal human being is an express image of God.2 In the book of Genesis he spells it out. Another thing that Moses was very definite about is that the existing human beings, such as we are, fall short of the standard of a healthy human being.3 This point was to be later echoed by Paul the apostle in his letter to Christians in Rome.4 The truth behind the story of Adam and Eve is very deep, but the bottom line is unmistakable: Human beings fell from where they once were.5 They have lost something in their humanness.

The great gift which Moses gave to the world is acknowledgment of the human soul. The moral ideals, the laws, are an expression, a portrait of the human soul, the image of God in man.  This image, this soul of man is centred on love.

However, Moses could only take us thus far and no further. What He could not do for us is to explain why we have carried on the way we have in spite of the ideals we know to be universally true.6 He could not help us understand why we have always come short of keeping that law. Our ego felt shut out, with no access to those things that the law expected from us.

Thus, John writes in his Gospel message:

”The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”7

In bringing the gift of the law through Moses, God already had in mind to bring the greater gift of grace through Jesus. In giving us a conscience, God already had in mind to give us a stream of healing from the inside, beginning with unconditional acceptance.
As one writer has said in the book Hebrews, the system of forgiveness that Moses set up was only an image of heavenly things, then Jesus came with the reality of the heavenly.8

But we have missed the point of the first gift, just as the Israelites did.9 We misread the law as human beings, got it wrong about our own soul. That sanctity that God installed in us, we wanted to save that by mechanical means. So we worked hard at trying to be good, to be acceptable. Our strong desire for correction only helped develop more evil. We thought for a long time that we could use the law to get to a point where we are acceptable. Both to God and ourselves. How wrong we were!

For the more we tried to be good, the more we saw ourselves growing in opposition to the good. We could not understand why, and this became even more upsetting.10 But thank God He understood why.
He was already standing there in the gap between us and death itself. The cross demonstrated that. The human condition was known to God way before it could be known to ourselves. He knew exactly the reason why we acted in opposition to His law. This, religion could not tell us. We could not look into the horrors of our own condition. We could only see the ideals that we had failed to access, which appeared as sins on the outside.

We know that God understood the human condition before because of the gift of grace.11 And this is the message Jesus came to bring. In this message He makes it clear that were are accepted! In spite of. While we could not yet understand how and why were are accepted He stretched out his hand to heal us.

We could not grasp how God could love us while were not what we should be. How could we be loved when we were failing to love even our own selves. We could not see what God saw in us. We could not see beyond our failure to access the ideals contained in the law and our own conscience.

Even so, He did not wait till we were acceptable before he could love us. He embraced us in the current state.12 The grace of God brings first of all, the message of our being accepted in spite of our being unacceptable. It overcomes the paradox of our desire for correction.

Many times we want to correct the situation before we can accept ourselves. The message of grace goes beyond that: We are accepted with the situation exactly as it is. We are not asked to move anything around first. All we have to do is to accept the acceptance.13 This is what it means to be reconciled to God, to life and to our own selves.

When Jesus appeared, He showed us beyond a doubt us that He knew something! Something very critical about us.
He did not deny that we are leaning on the left side, that we are not good, yet He said “I don't put the blame on you. You are free to go...”

The law experts said of a certain woman that she had committed adultery, “Moses says she must die.” Jesus said to her, 'I don't blame (condemn) you.'14

The thief on the cross, and the tax collectors were treated in a way they did not deserve. He showed understanding that went beyond the judgment they deserved. But why? Jesus did not explain. He simply demonstrated. He did not write a book about it. He just did it. We see Jesus in history meeting all these people who were far, far from good. When He comes to those who are alive today, He also just does it! They will understand later what He has done to them.

So, although reason demands a solid basis for accepting the acceptance, that basis cannot be founded on the reason why. The basis for receiving this gift is: We are accepted already. We have been allowed to live on in spite of what we have done. Moses said we deserved to die and that's accurate, but somehow life kept us in. We must have been accepted! Jesus went all out to demonstrate that!

He understood that we lack something. He offers to us that something that can make us whole human beings. It is by grace that He gives us that something.15



References:

1. Exodus 14
2. Genesis 1:16
3. Genesis 3
4. Romans 3:23
5. Genesis 3:23-24
6. Griffith, Jeremy. A Species In Denial. Sydney: FHA Publishing and Communications Pty Ltd, 2003.
7. John 1:17. New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
8. Hebrews 8:5-6
9. Hebrews 3:19
10. Romans 7:15-20; Galatians 3:10
11. John 3:17
12. Romans 5:6-8
13. Tillich, Paul. The New Being. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955. http://www.religion-online.org/showbook.asp?title=375 . John1:12
14. John 8:11
15. John 10:10; John 3:16; Luke 5:29-31

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