Yancey says that grace is the last good word that has not had its meaning perverted to become a word of derision, such as charity has. Dissecting a word seems to spoil it for many, so instead of trying to take it apart, he honours and displays grace in stories that show it off to best advantage.
Good move! I can hardly recall when a book got me this excited. Of course I've heard of grace all my life, growing up in church, just as he did, from babyhood on, and I know I have leaned - no, thrown myself utterly on the grace of our Lord many times, but this treatment in this book really opened my eyes to understand better what a marvelous and priceless gift God's grace is to us.
The stories he tells illustrate grace beautifully. The four parts each begin with an outstanding story. Those alone teach a great deal about grace. The story of Babette's Feast lingered long after my mind was on other things again. I'm still pondering Big Harold's life story.
I have never before seen the sharp contrast; that yes, the world can do most of the things the church does, but the one thing no other religion, secular government, organization or person can do is show this kind of grace - unmerited love and forgiveness. This is what is unique about our God and how we live if we truly are followers and believers in Christ Jesus.
Yancey shows God to be a Lovesick Father. God is waiting eagerly for our decision to rise up and return to Him. He has gifts and membership in His family, and a big celebration all in the waiting for us. Yancey says, "There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less."
In the story, A Home for Bastards, Will Campbell is quoted in his reply to a journalist who wanted the Christian
message in ten words or less; "We are all bastards but God loves us anyway."
After spotlighting God's grace, in expansive, generous ways, Yancey turns to the problem that breaks his heart - and mine. As Christians and churches, we have not been showing forth grace as we should In fact, we have a bad reputation for going the other direction! I knew we were not perfect, but my eyes were opened now by the true stories he told of racism right in churches, and the violence against abortionists, and homosexuals. I had no idea our un-grace was that bad! These things made me ashamed for all Christians.
In the last part Yancey shows how grace still gets mixed into our world. But then it only takes a bit of salt compared to the whole dish, to flavour it. Rather than Christians taking over the current governments, we need to concentrate on carrying out the great commission of Jesus, and just being salt and light in our corners of the world. Now I understand why separation of church and state is a good thing. Christians in positions of power start losing the ability to show grace. That is not to say Christians should not be in politics or run for office, but there are unique dangers to being in power.
We are but pilgrims passing through to our homeland, as my grandmother used to say. We know from God's Word, that when Christ shall reign on the earth, then those who have been faithful in little things will co-reign with Him in larger matters and responsibilities.
I can only say again, this book was like good, rich spiritual meat. I want to thank Philip Yancey for writing it, and so frankly too, and I want to recommend it to all thinking, caring believers. It will give you a taste of the breadth and depth of grace - something we all hunger for, whether believers or not. As shown in the last scene, whole stadiums of people will grow silent in awe at that sweet sound of grace.
Alone at the end of a raucous Guns 'n' Roses concert singing a capella, Jessye Norman, a majestic African-American opera singer, began the beloved old hymn,
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found--
Was blind, but now I see.
By the third verse, several thousand fans were singing along! Yancey says it was because the world thirsts for grace.
I say; let's get busy giving it to them!