The Onion has a short article about a man coasting through life on entirely on the benefit of doubt. Not only is it funny, but it speaks rather loudly about our cultural mindset:
“Despite a long list of intractable character flaws, local account executive Jeremy Gorstal has coasted through the first 32 years of his existence solely on the benefit of the doubt, sources reported this week. “Jeremy’s hit a rough patch, but he’ll turn it around soon,” Allied Advertising sales director Alice Crenshaw rationalized to reporters Monday after Gorstal mistakenly deleted crucial company data, an incident that came one month after he was forgiven for forgetting his father’s birthday and just days after his girlfriend declined to break up with him because “he wants to change.” “I’ve always believed Jeremy has a lot of potential and that we should just give him a little latitude to adjust to his role, which I’m sure will happen in due time.” When reminded that Gorstal has accomplished almost nothing of merit, sources close to the man tentatively agreed, but suggested that he simply hasn’t been provided enough opportunities.”
As I read this it struck me how often we view grace in this way. To many of us grace is simply overlooking our flaws and giving each other the benefit of doubt, after all, we just need the right situation to shine in or goal to work toward. We think that Jesus’ work on the cross is about us getting a second chance to get it right. Or third, or fourth chance…
However grace is not the benefit of doubt. Grace is really the embrace of doubt, doubt in self. We are flawed, broken and sinful people who by no merit, means or effort of our own can achieve the perfection required by God to be in relationship with him. Even our best strategies and tactics to live holy lives and ‘meet the mark’ sanctifying ourselves are sullied by the ugliness of sin. In fact, we are incapable of accomplishing much with or without the right opportunities.
But grace… Grace, the gift of Jesus, the gift of his perfection and accomplished work screams that it is finished. The perfection needed was provided in Jesus, the One in whom we never doubt. We need not trust in our ability because the only One truly able has done the work, called us his and promised to bring us home.
Christians; broken people hurting, afraid and alone; successful, power-brokers, don’t need the benefit of doubt. We need Jesus and the good news of his grace for us in the midst of it all.
I like the sound of this grace, and I hope you do too.