Posted by: Adam McLane

Have you ever smelled grace?

The kind of grace that you feel and sense immediately, snaps you to attention warning-less, and fills the room with warm memories of when you first encountered the risen Jesus?

The smell is so strong it simultaneously sparks remembrance and whets your appetite for more.

Some believers permeate this kind grace toward others from their very pores. The grace, mercy, and love these people exude is almost unbelievable yet entirely undeniable.

I call this incredulous grace.

Incredulous grace tenderizes the meat of the Gospel, making it palatable to even the most highly-refined and cynical person. It is so unbelievable that it is undeniable. It raises a frenzied appetite as its goodness fills the air of the grace-givers-space. It’s simple complexities are hard to fathom but easy to experience. When you taste its richness for yourself you are torn. “Do I tell every soul who will listen or do I keep this secret all for myself?

And yet.

Most of us don’t want to learn how to prepare and serve incredulous grace. It costs too much and takes too much time. We prefer the fast-food versions.

The sad reality is that there are no short cuts to incredulous grace. It’s prepared only one way, you have to fight to tenderize love, mercy, and grace into the toughness of your body, born as slaves to sin. We have neither the patience to wait nor the innate desire to mature to the point of preparing only the best.

We rationalize, why get the best when a fast-food fix comes so cheap?

Instead, we settle for a grace-like substance. We get fat on imitation grace which bears only a chemical likeness to the real thing. It’s unsatisfying. But we convince ourselves that it was meant to be that way. We chose ineffective efficiency over inefficient effectiveness.

Why?!? Why do we reject incredulous grace for cheap grace?

Because we are damaged people. To forgive others means we need to forgive ourselves– many of us are too wounded and paralyzed to know how to do that. The fast-pace of modern church life leaves no room for marinating all-night to loosen sins lock on our flavor. We need instant results so we settle for a quick-fix even if it leaves us still hungry.

And yet some of us awaken to this full palete and decide to fight. First, we resist the addictive urge for fast-food mercy, grace, and love. Then, we learn to loathe the hypocrisy of a grace, love, and mercy industry. Finally, we rise above the pettiness of it all and simply rest in recognition that we are called both the giver and receiver of grace… merely called to prepare the way for the true Grace-giver.

In the end, to our delightful shock, the aura of grace smelled enwrapping our flesh isn’t our grace at all.

It is Christ’s smell resonating through us.

When people look down on us for these acts of incredulous grace we sadly know that they aren’t looking down on us. Our sorrow is in the revealed depravity of religious people who are looking down on the very hands, feet, and actions of Jesus. His grace simply isn’t good enough for them. They turn their noses at the bouquet of a perfectly prepared prime rib for the cheap potpourri of Coke & a McRib. Sadly, true grace has never touched their lips. They know of forgiveness but have not tasted its delights. And they don’t have a clue what they are missing.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)