Regular readers to this blog will note my ongoing exasperation with those who insist we need to regularly be in touch with our “inner sinner” in order to reassure ourselves that we really are bad enough that we can only be saved by grace and not works.
This is my cutesy way of saying that I am continually amazed by the number of Christians that need to be reassured that the Bible is in favor of us doing good works. In fact, not only is the Bible in favor of us doing good works; it actually goes so far as to say that we were created in order to do them. And no less a “grace” guy than Martin Luther famously wrote in “The Freedom of a Christian,”
We do not, therefore, reject good works; on the contrary, we cherish and teach them as much as possible.
And by good works the good Luther had more in mind than believin’ in Jesus.
The Reformers had no bone to pick with good works. Their bone was with Christians who believed good works were necessary for salvation.
Unfortunately, as I noted in an earlier post, that has translated today into the idea that good works are optional for the Christian life, rather than the grace-based warp and woof of it.
Which is why I generally like Kelly Kapic’s new book, God So Loved, He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to have on hand to give to Christians who are nervous about a diet heavy in good works. Covenant College’s Kapic soothingly reassures readers that good works are the logical outflow of a grace-based Christianity, not the impediment or repudiation thereof.
A typically thoughtful passage from Kapic:
Following the King, God’s people witness to the kingdom in both their words and deeds. Whenever the church chooses between these two, it ends up in trouble, both misunderstanding the King and misrepresenting the kingdom. Having received eyes to see and to experience the reality of the kingdom, the church seeks to imitate the concerns of Jesus’ life because we have been liberated by his death. We now seek to fight against the tyrannical powers that create so much pain for humanity. We seek to foster harmony between humanity and nature; we faithfully join in the efforts to promote healing where there is sickness; we fearlessly fight against the demonic powers of oppression and fear that capture so many and wreck so much.
But in all of this, we do it in light of the proclamation of Jesus as Lord, the crucified and risen King who alone has power over death, sin, and the devil. Word and deed always go together in God’s kingdom, for here alone is true liberty found and new life enjoyed. This is not merely a “spiritual” life, but a life set free to generously help those in need, and, in that, point them to the King.
If Kapic and I part company anywhere (and I’m not sure we do; a book is a book, after all, not the complete statement of an author’s position or purpose or life), it may be in Kapic’s reluctance to specify exactly how we are to give. Writes Kapic:
We must also be careful before trying to specify certain behavioral norms since even the most devout and thoughtful Christians can differ widely over such details, and our individual callings and particular situations will inevitably impact the way Christ’s cross takes shape in our lives.
I’ve already written previously on how Scripture does establish behavioral norms for giving, and how failing to incorporate these in the discipleship process leads Christians to default to their own preferences, comfort levels, and limited experiences. But that’s the subject of my own forthcoming book, The Whole Life Offering: Christianity as Philanthropy, so we’ll leave a fuller response to that tome, due out in February.
Between now and then, be sure to grab a copy of Kapic’s book, and keep an extra copy on your shelf for the special works-averse Christian in your life.
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