I'm tired of hearing news of politics. I'm tired of hearing news of financial crisis. I'm tired of hearing people debate whether this bailout will work or not. Maybe it's still my post-honeymoon apathy towards almost everything but me-n-HH, but I don't feel a great sense that my actions will have much impact on either the upcoming election or the general financial state of our country.
I had an interesting moment the other day, though, as a co-worker was telling me about how AIG spent the first $450k of their $85m bailout from the government. Outrage. Amazement at their stupidity, blindness, greed and seeming inability to acknowledge any wrongdoing (is it just me, or does it sound remarkably like African tyrants who take huge sums of money from the West and spend it on themselves rather than the truly destitute for whom the funds were intended?). And continued amazement just now as I'm reading an article that describes the top two guys in Capital Hill hearings: "The committee members, barely concealing their frustration, seemed stunned by the duo's refusal to find fault with their own performances."
Yesterday at our small group, we wrestled with the question that Paul poses in Galatians 2:17, and also in Romans 6: "If grace, why good works?" Grace abounds when sin abounds; what then is our motivation for good works?
Grace = bailout.
I find that in my own life, I've been the recipient of a spiritual bailout that exceeds AIG's transgression; AIG would have had to have been dead and rebuilt from the ground up to even remotely compare. And I have no doubt that I've flauntingly wasted it to a much greater degree than $450k in spa treatments, fancy food and lavish resorts. We would be APPALLED if the government just kept lending an irresponsible entity loan after loan (especially knowing my sinful self: it's not only unsecured, but guaranteed not to get repaid). But God does it to me, despite myself and my track record.
I've mentioned several times that I've really been enjoying the book Between Noon and Three. The book is, essentially, a treatise on grace. The funny thing about the book is that he's thoroughly convinced that we don't get grace enough to go on and ask the second half of the question ("why good works?"). I'm nearly 2/3 of the way through the book and he keeps shushing the theoretical objectors who argue that his emphasis on God's grace will give license to sin. His primary objection is that if we're still fixated on works, we haven't yet grasped grace!
As I've been reading this book, I've seen a subtle shift in my mind to look at other people with a much more grace-based point of view. When I see a way that they are caught in sin or just bumbling along, I'm much less prone to judge them than to suspect that they don't "get it" either, that they haven't really understood what grace has been given to them: a lavish bailout, such that a $23k spa treatment is NOTHIN' compared to the bank account God has for them.
May I grow in embracing and extending that grace (and may I say that maybe the good works will just flow from there?). Meanwhile, the bailout just keeps on comin'. Praise God for the depth of that pocketbook!