I am sure you have heard the idiom that the only certain things in life are death and taxes. Let me add one more thing to that list. A book written by Max Lucado will be really well written. He is a masterful writer. I do not claim to be a literary critic (I usually only deal with the content, not the style), but I will go out on a limb and say that the way Lucado writes is very rare. There are not many people that have the gift he has. Because I know that to be true, when I had the opportunity to read and review his new book, Grace, I was eager to do it.
The book itself does not disappoint from that literary perspective. He is a very easy writer to read and understand. The book moves very quickly. I was able to read it in just a few hours. That is not because I am a speed reader, but the book is actually not as long as it might look (there is a 50+ page study guide at the end of the book). I would feel confident that anyone out there would read this book very quickly.
Now onto the content. For much of the book, I was impressed. It actually was good for me to ponder the grace of God in my own life. I read it during a time while on vacation, when I was really struggling with some depressive thoughts. It proved to be good for my soul. At the beginning of the book, he tries to articulate his purpose of the book:
"Here's my hunch: we've settled for wimpy grace . . . This book asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped by grace? Strengthened by grace? Emboldened by grace? Softened by grace? Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace? God's grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A white-water, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you. It rewires you. From insecure to God secure. From regret-riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid-to-die to ready-to-fly. Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off." (8)
At this point, I was somewhat surprised. Of course, I was only eight pages in, but I completely agreed! You see, in every book that I have ever read by Lucado, while I have appreciated the literary value, there always ended up being something that I didn't agree with theologically. But this sounded great. God's grace coming to change us. God's grace being active in our life. Yes, I'm in!
He continues to explain how God's grace is found in forgiveness of our guilt. Agreed! Then he shows how God's grace is found in the exchange of Christ's righteousness for our sin. Awesome! On and on he continues. The resurrection is God's grace in our life; grace moves us to forgive; Grace is seen in Jesus being our redeemer; Grace means you can risk confession with God; We do not need to fear because of God's grace; and it should move us to be generous. Chapter after chapter, I just couldn't disagree with what he was saying. I was moved. I was inspired. I was challenged. I was feeling hope in my depression.
That is, until I reached chapter ten. Ugh. As I was reading, I thought for sure I was about to write a glowing review of a Max Lucado book. But now, I feel as as though I had to say something about this chapter. He speaks about grace in the fact that God has chosen us. But what he really says, is that God's grace is poured out on us because of something we have done. He puts the cart before the horse. This is what he says.
"There is something in you that God loves. Not just appreciates or approves but loves. You cause his eyes to widen, his heart to beat faster. He loves you. and he accepts you." (118)
And he continues.
"Rather than conjure up reasons to feel good about yourself, trust God's verdict. If God loves you, you must be worth loving. If he wants to have you in his kingdom, then you must be worth having. God's grace invites you--no, requires you--to change your attitude about yourself and take sides with God against your feelings of rejection." (121)
But that is not the Scriptures I read. The Bible I turn to says that He loves us and pours His grace out on us in spite of who we are. He does it while we are his enemies. He does it, not because we are special, but because of the kind intention of His will. Our worth and value as people are found, not in the fact that we are special, but that the grand Creator of the universe took note of us while we were not special. Our worth is found in our unworthiness, not in that we have done something to deserve it. It is simply a misrepresentation of the facts of Christianity. It puts the onus on God to respond to us because we have something in us that is lovable. When in fact, the real story is that it begins with God loving those that are not lovable at all!
I understand that he is trying to get people to not feel rejected. He wants them to see that God's grace is greater than their feelings of rejection. But here's the problem. When you say that there is something lovable inside of us that God responds to, you have cheapened grace. It sounds like we deserve it. To use his words, it is "wimpy grace." But if there is nothing in us that is lovable and God still pours out grace on us, that is not wimpy or cheap. That is where we find real meaning!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”