New friends introduced me to mountain biking shortly after we arrived in Santiago. They were certain I’d enjoy the adventure now that I was living in Chile, and wanted me to join them for a jaunt in the foothills of the Andes.
“We go out every Sunday after church,” they told me. “You should come.”
“I don’t have a bike,” I said.
“You can borrow one of mine,” Rick replied.
“Where do you ride?” I asked.
“Up there.” Luis pointed to the snow-covered peaks behind us. “On a cow path.”
I have this thing about heights. “Is it safe? What if I fall?”
“I fall a lot,” said Jon. He pointed to wounds and scars on his arms, shoulders, back. “Stitches, dislocations, blood. It’s great.”
I went; it was steep. And that cow path? Very skinny cows apparently, animals unworried by precipitous drop-offs. If going up was difficult, coming down was terrifying.
“Trust the equipment,” Rick said. “It’s better than you are.”
“But you still have to peddle. For the descent, get off the seat and hold yourself over that back tire. One more thing: don’t use the front brake.”
Before long, those narrow cow paths weren’t nearly so frightening. Before long, we were looking for more challenging rides. Before long, I was inviting newbies to join us.
Thanks to a friend, I got the right tools; otherwise I would have been lost. And with the encouragement of others, I eventually learned the technique. Before long, I was a mountain biker.
Grace and sin are both known by their effects. Sin destroys. It advertises a community but assembles a wolf pack; it promises a party cruise, then sets sail on a ship that will sink. It spreads a banquet whose main course is the invited guests. Its work is fundamentally disintegrating; it controls by distraction and entrapment. Sin cannot create but dismantles, disrupts, removes. Sin takes; it never gives.
By contrast, grace draws people into a wholly new place, and sets them on a wholly new path. Can I do this? the newcomer asks? Yes, because grace aims resource at need. By far, the most breathtaking display of grace comes at the cross, when Jesus dies to save people. But grace does not stop at this. It continues to be available, shaping in those rescued by Jesus a new nature.
Grace’s impulse is to rescue, redeem, remake, restore. It meets wrecked lives and offers to get busy doing good. This is why we describe exhibitions of grace in terms of blessings, for grace is at its core and in its demonstration benevolent. Grace flows generally and broadly, exuded by God to the benefit of all.
It also pours out in response to trouble, seeking and drawing hearts in need of and longing for repair and welcome. Its appeal is intentional and the acts of grace are lively, attractive and attracting, pressing forward and always in play. Grace fills a bright, appealing neighborhood in which people accustomed to gradual impoverishing by sin might want to live.
Those rescued by grace from sin’s death grip enter a realm where grace is both companion and teacher such that their lives are by it disciplined and enlarged. Then, in a move that defies understanding, God makes the targets of His grace agents of it as well. With grace, God fashions a virtuous cycle that redounds to His glory.
(An excerpt from Wanting Glory, the ‘serious’ book I’m working on)