With the exception of detailing Learner’s fall schedule (which, to his amazement, he has been able to stick to so far), I recognize that many of the posts throughout September were a bit “soft” in terms of actual reporting on the academic elements of seminary life. Forgive me. I have such a heart for Learner that oftentimes in my subjectivity I forget to include the more objective realities of his experiences.
So, as we’re into a new month (October – one of Learner’s favorites for reasons of fall weather and the World Series), let me take more of a “beat reporter” mindset and bring you news from Learner’s Spiritual and Ministry Formation class, which is designed to help the student identify calling, gifting, ministry philosophy and contribution. Having just finished The Call by Os Guinness, Learner and Mrs. Learner have started Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges, in which Bridges writes with helpful simplicity about a matter that, for Learner at least, is personally complicated: the grace of God.
Bridges is a master of both unique but accurate exposition. For instance (and with regard to the parable of the landowner in Matthew 20:1-16): “The landowner was not only fair with his workers; he was progressively more generous with each group of workers he hired throughout the day. He received, not what he had earned on an hourly basis, but what he needed to sustain his family for a day. The landowner could have paid them only what they had earned, but he chose to pay them according to their need, not according to their work. He paid according to grace, not debt.”
While Learner wants to critique Bridges’ presumption as to the landowner’s motives in paying a full day’s wages (couldn’t he have just been keeping his advertised word rather than giving thought at all to the worker’s needs?), he’s not sure his skepticism makes sense as to why Jesus would tell the parable in the first place. Contextually, Jesus is not trying to prove that God keeps his word but rather that he is a generous and gracious God who gives what we do not deserve, out of grace and not out of debt, as Bridges puts it.
Learner’s tendency toward this kind of critique is unfortunately too telling as to how little he really experiences the grace of God. His sense (obsession) of right and wrong, combined with five generations of farm background in which “you only get what you work for” and “don’t bother anyone with your troubles” constantly works against his acceptance (though not his recognition) of his need for grace. Sadly, to this farm boy, grace is what you are to give to others (it’s what good neighbors do); debt is what you have to pay back (and, he says, “we all know what payback is…”).
More to come…