Monday, January 17, 2011

The Christian Sensibility

I dreamed I saw St Augustine
Alive with fiery breath
I dreamed I was among the ones
That put him out to death
Oh I awoke in anger
So alone and terrified
I put my fingers against the glass
And bowed my head and cried.
-- Bob Dylan
The beginning of Christian sensibility is the realization that one could commit an evil act and get up the next day and live with it. At that point, one understands the nature of Original Sin; and the true value of God's grace is revealed. Until that evil within has been confronted -- as in Bob Dylan's dream -- God's grace seems but a "nice to have," and the absolute necessity of it is not apparent. Grace abounds when one is "so alone and terrified" by one's own sin ... and not before.

Too many Christians have been seduced by what Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace" -- the belief that one could live in the world, be of the world, and still accept God's grace. But, he was right that grace is "costly." It requires that one give up living in the world and live only in God. Most of us are unwilling to pay the full price; perhaps, only saints fully accept the cost of grace. Each day presents those decisions -- in thought, word, deed. Peter, in our Lord's darkest hour, faltered. How much more likely then, are we?

Acceptance of the cost of grace is made bearable, finally, in that moment of lonely terror when one looks over the edge into the abyss that is one's own heart. Then, one begs -- not for forgiveness, which is foregone -- but to be saved. Crying out into the darkness, "How can I bear this burden alone?" brings the echo back from the abyss: "You don't have to."
Make me Thy friend, Lord, be my surety: I
Will be Thy client, be my advocate:
My sins make Thine, Thy pleas make mine hereby.
Thou wilt me save, I will Thee celebrate.
Thou'lt kill my sins that cut my heart within:
And my rough feet shall Thy smooth praises sing.
-- Edward Taylor

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