A few months ago I reviewed a book called “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them” by John Ortberg. It is a book about relationships. It paints a picture of what God can do through the relationships He places us in. One of the concepts the book explores is Shalom, and environment of an all encompassing peace; a picture of our home in heaven. This establishes a vision of the true community that the Church is designed to be. People have often talked about love being the oil of relationship. If so, then its close cousin is grace.
In his book “The Grace of God”, Andy Stanley explores the story of grace. Most of us, if asked, would gladly talk about the story of grace as seen in the New Testament. After all, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the perfect picture of grace; the perfect Lamb of God taking our place, shedding blood for the remission of sin. No doubt that is true. What this book shows is that act is the climax in the story of grace, but it is far from the beginning. Andy takes us on a wonderful tour through the Old Testament. He takes some of the most familiar stories and digs deeply into them to show us what God’s grace looks like in each one. Some of those stories where God looks harsh and inflexible are actually wonderful pictures of his plan to act towards us grace and love.
Without spoiling too much, one important ingredient for our personal understanding of God’s design for community, is the beginning. We need to see and understand what it was like before sin and shame entered the equation. Interestingly enough it looks a lot like shalom. It looks like the description of our home in heaven.
I would strongly encourage you to take this expedition through the scriptural story of grace. Your heart will be blessed as you see God’s grace at every turn. I think that the perspective you gain will convince you that grace was there all along, not just at the cross. I think that you will be convinced that the few examples in this book just scratch the surface of this story of the ages. As you gain a clearer picture of God’s grace, I am convinced that the relationships in your life will show it. My hope and prayer is that as we understand it better, and as we discuss it together on our Facebook page, 5Principles, that our churches will grow toward being the environment of grace/shalom that God designed them to be.
Won’t that be just what we long to see?
Grace was there in the beginning, and Christ on the cross was the climax. Our generation has something to do with where the story ends. Yes, ultimately the end of the story is determined by God and a resurrected Christ, but until then God has chosen to work through His Church. Will those who come behind us find us faithful?