When we think of grace, our minds immediately go to the Cross. In that moment of divine suffering, we see the radiant demonstration of God’s gift of freedom and salvation towards us. The whole of Christian theology hinges on that moment, the moment when the universe waited to see if God would really die.
While the Cross may be the ultimate act of grace, it is certainly not the first. Embedded in Scripture are statements, episodes, and mandates communicating the gift God gives. I think that Christians could benefit from seeing the Cross not as the only act of grace, but as the greatest act of grace, superseding the rest. Grace, then, starts in the beginning…
Genesis 1.1 is an act of grace. If 2 ½ years of Bible college Greek taught me anything, is was that the word for grace carries the idea of a gift. Couple that truth with 35 birthdays, I also know that gifts are given out of relationship. God had no reason to create our reality. He comfortably and completely existed before it, and would continue to exist without us. Based on our feeble and finite understanding, there is no good reason to create reality other than relationship.
God made the universe because He wanted relationships beyond His mysterious internal relationship within the Trinity. He did not need it; He chose it. That’s what makes the Genesis 1.1 so revolutionary. The creation myths of the ancient world saw deities as a product of creation, dependent on the universe for their existence. Even the most powerful deities, from Odin to Chronos to Vishnu, are bound within the limits of the created order, just as we are. The authority to rule over humanity was an authority of power, not of relationship.
The Hebrew story stands in marked contrast to these accounts. YHWH is seen as outside of the universal reality, as something other than a created being. God does not need creation in order to exist. He depends on no thing and no one. He is transcendent, with no obligations or requirements.
Furthermore, He does not need us. That’s what makes creation a gift. He gave us us. The first gift God gives us is our existence. Within our existence is the capacity for relationship with Him. Even before Humanity comes in 1.26, grace exists. We often think of grace as a response to Humanity’s failures, but in truth, it exists before them.
Grace is not a knee-jerk, reactionary backup plan, like the air-filters on Apollo 13. God doesn’t look at creation’s disarray and say; “Ok we gotta make this fit into this, using only this.” Grace is the plan, and depending on your theological tradition, grace is either broad enough to account for all realities, strong enough to rewrite reality, or it is the map of reality, determining our path of relationship.
Revolution carries the connotation of a new thing. In truth, all revolutions are attempts at restoration. Revolutionaries from Judas Maccabaeus to John Hancock, hope to restore the natural order, the way things are supposed to be. Christianity shares in that revolutionary paradigm. We were created to live in relationship with our Creator, and the Christian journey starts with that reconciliation.
For after all what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed.
– Blaise Pascal