“Why do so many of us speak about grace but actually live by law? We push freedom in Christ but live oppressed by the duties (and our failures) of the faith. Real grace and liberation will result in (and may be the result of) a new language.”
I really had to check myself with what I do regarding the above. A fascinating concept it is that forces us back into our corner to reflect over our possible misdemeanours.
Grace Language versus the Language of Law
A lot of our mood and outcomes of life come from the language we find ourselves using, whether implicitly via our self-talk and approaches to life, or explicitly via the actual words we use.
Could or should? Want to or need to? Desire to or have to? Choose to or ought to?
The former words are words of grace and therefore of power and possibility. The latter words are words of the law and they tend, therefore, to be powers over us, compelling us without option.
Of course, this works most consistently in relationships too. There’s the phenomenon of ‘the power of asking versus the force of telling,’ for none of us truly like to be told anything; we’d always prefer to be asked.
Some of the more legalistic cultures, however, exist very well in the telling mode. The place of asking, of options and of grace wouldn’t work so naturally with these. But, that shouldn’t stop us challenging our own language for the slightest skerrick of the law, certainly as it impinges on grace to the detriment of joy and propagation of guilt.
Perhaps one of the only ‘shoulds’ in our vocabulary could emanate from not speaking in legalism, i.e. “I should not use ‘should,’ ‘must,’ ‘need to,’ ‘have to,’ ‘ought to’ statements unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Sometimes we do need to use this language—to say we couldn’t would, of itself, be legalistic.
This is an area where we ought (there I go breaking my own rules—perhaps this being an important exception) to keep ourselves more gently accountable for this sort of speech where and when it occurs, so we don’t hem ourselves and others in to ‘requirements’ rather than the more attractive ‘options,’ those glowing with grace.
We could want to make this slight change in the selection of our words and language so that there is less hopeless and ‘felt’ obligation and more empowered flexibility in the way we live our lives.
Grace is freedom to choose to love; it doesn’t make us love.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.