The apostle Paul is directing his younger colleague in ministry in serving a church that was in a state of mess (see Titus 2:11-14). The church often finds itself in such a state—check it out throughout history.  The myth of the perfect church, or even the untroubled church—is just that, a myth, a projection of our obsessive need to have everything all at once on our terms.  But that is not the church that we find and not the church God determines to use savingly, transformingly.


Rather, God will use the church that perceives and responds to grace.  A Third Note on grace is that no other religion has such a view of God or the gods, past or present.  In fact, the vocabulary of grace in the Christian sense doesn’t really appear in the Greek speaking/reading world and certainly does not become common until Jesus comes.


Literally, this is true.  The gods of the ancient world were supersized human beings—with increased and expanded powers but the same basic characters and traits as humans because they were fashioned as variations of the human image.


In Greco-Roman pantheons, the gods make demands, act by whim, do as you and I would if we were gods.  Gods are abusive and arbitrary, seeking their own advancement, and ever eager to use their power for such advancement.  Again, they do just the way humans do.  The gods exploit each other, especially those weaker than they, and care only about their own agenda.  The extent to which this sounds shocking or unthinkable to us today is the extent to which a uniquely Christian view of God and grace have permeated our conceptual world.


The gods of ancient and modern times have to be convinced, cajoled, and coerced to be kind.  And even when they are, they often prove unreliable.  To the gods one would and could never sing, “Great is thy faithfulness!”


[Even to the present hour—this is the same basic understanding and set of assumptions many people have about the gods or the divine or heaven or fate, or whatever God there might be.]


Only the God revealed in Jesus doesn’t need us, except that he loves us and made us to lavish his best on us, and to enter into loving familial relationship with us.  Only God as we meet him in Jesus pursues our well-being rathet than his own, because he has no need to pursue his own!  Quite simply only this God is!


Only the God revealed in Jesus comes to us in grace, in kindness, and in power that he uses in giving us a life, not because it’s good for him but for us.  NOTE: the key to the church’s mission—making disciples, followers of Jesus—is to get God right at this point.  There is no god like this God.  NO God meets us in the likes of Jesus, except our God!  Get God right, the grace of God, and God’s power will work


How imperative, therefore, that we be a church of such grace, the grace of God.  Pursuing people out of regard for their own well-being, eager to go to wherever they are, to seek them out, serve them, hoping in the process that somehow they will see the God that Jesus makes real. 


How scandalous it is for a church to become all about themselves, seeking to secure, maintain, protect, advance their own interests, often assuming they are synonymous with God’s.  No need for the church to be this way or to act in this way.  If we will be like our God in the way our God reveals himself—which is what the scriptures mean when they call us to holiness—God will be pleased and though we will still not be perfect in that ideal way, God will find in us a people he can use savingly and transformingly in the world today.  And, because we are this way and God works in this way, the world will be blessed.

Published by David Kendall

Reverend David W. Kendall, an ordained elder in the Great Plains Conference, was elected to the office of bishop of the Free Methodist Church in May 2005. He serves as overseer of East Michigan, Gateway, Great Plains, Mid-America, North Central, North Michigan, Ohio, Southern Michigan, Wabash, African Area Annual Conferences; and Coordinator of oversight for the World Ministries Center.

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