The grace of being DISGRACED: Galatians 3

(Read Galations 3).  DISGRACED, a Pulitzer prize winning play, is riveting.  It’s one of the few plays where I actually forgot I was watching a play.  A play has to work overtime to make you forget.  Because unlike a movie, you can literally see the stage, the curtains, the lights and sometimes even the make-up.  All the things a movie can conveniently move “off piste” are in your face in theatre.  In the theatre, all of its elaborate machinations are on display.

But DISGRACED is so good, I forgot.  Mainly, the actors are incredible.  But the play, also, tells the tale of a man’s fall from power.  He starts with a beautiful wife, a great job, fancy friends and excellent prospects of partnership.  He ends with – well, I can’t tell you, because I hope you go see it if you can, or read it if you can’t, but let’s just say this is a play where a lot happens.

And yet, really, very little happens.  It’s mostly talk, except for two startling moments of violence.  And yet the play feels action packed.

That’s because the play exposes the human heart.  It rips open the metaphorical chests of all five characters and displays all the veins and ventricles of their beating hearts.  It’s not pretty.  All five characters come from different backgrounds, races and religions, and yet all sin and all fall far short of the glory of God.  At face value, the play purports to show the short-comings of Islam.  But it goes far deeper than that.  It goes to the heart of every human.

It shows that all of us need grace.

Grace is so central to our salvation and our joy, that Paul literally almost berates his readers in frustration.  Who has bewitched you? Paul asks.  What makes you think you can be saved by faith in Christ, but progress closer to Christ by being “good”?  Paul reminds us that Christians are saved by grace, AND that Christians grow by grace.

Paul spells it out here because it’s so easy to forget.  Pride keeps trying to slip back inside us the moment we get saved by grace and puff us back up.  But Paul says not one human can obey the Law.  And by the way, Paul points out,  God gave the promise of salvation through grace to Abraham four hundred years before God gave the law to Moses.  When God promised that all nations would be blessed through Abraham, God was foretelling the coming of Christ.  Paul says God gave the law to Moses after that to help us try to live more productive lives of joy and life – but also to show us that we CANNOT keep the law in its entirety.  And the law is a cruel master.  If you can’t keep the whole law, well then, sorry.  You’re sunk.  The law can’t help you. The law isn’t the sort of thing you can fudge.  The law is an either or kind of a thing.  Either you keep every last bit of it, or you don’t.  And as this play so honestly reveals, none of us keep the whole law all the time.

That’s why even though failure feels like the worst thing, in the long run it’s really the best.  If we let go of our rage at our impotence and accept that we are imperfect, God can begin to do wonderful amazing things to us and through us. He can save us.  He can lift us back up.  He can restore our dignity.  He can give us a new dignity based on rock instead of sand.  He can wipe away our tears and promise to always be with us – even when everyone else leaves us; even when we’ve driven others away by our bad behavior; even when those we most love have betrayed us through no fault of our own; even when we’ve been fired; even when we’ve lost all hope of any of our dreams.

God will always give us new dreams, and He will eventually give us new friends and new careers.  But most of all, and first of all, He will give us Himself.  He died to restore us to Himself.  He was disgraced so we would never have to be.  The promise holds true.  All of us are blessed through Abraham’s seed.  The seed, according to the Gospel of Christ, is Jesus.  He shed his blood so that we could receive all the promises of God to His chosen people the Jews.  In Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galations 3:28.

We all strive to be the Number One.  It’s only when we give that up and accept that Christ alone is One, that we discover God will lift each of us up to the place of Number One in His loving perfect heart.

Amen.  Posted by Caroline Coleman in A Chapter a Day on December 15, 2014

 

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