|Make it a rule of thumb that
if you can’t be good, be normal. Good is supposed to be used to
normal. No one should feel guilty about being normal. Normalcy is an
incomplete and imperfect yet good
foundation. But normalcy is not the whole vision Normalcy must be
transformed, elevated, transfigured,
or redirected by grace. Otherwise normalcy is not completed in good by
grace as God intended.
Normalcy comes through common grace, but transforming normalcy is a product of divine or “special” grace. So you fulfill common grace with special grace, and when you can’t, return to common grace in order that you start over again later. Return by going to your beginnings in common grace, then start over in claiming special grace, which is the transforming of what is natural by what is good. To return, rethink, and start over is the meaning of “repentance” that Christ and John the Baptist used. (Matthew 3:2).
Now some people today try to argue normalcy is grace enough. But that is not so. Normalcy is the product of a common grace given to all, but the transformation of normalcy into higher good is a product of a “special” grace that is given to the few through God.
No one is perfectly transformed by grace on this earth, but changing the natural into the good is a blessed thing. For if by common grace comes normalcy, special grace gives us the ability to use normalcy for the good, the clean and the pleasant. That is----normalcy is raised and directed according to the purposes of God, the needs you have, the abilities you have to offer, and the circumstances you are in.
Here is an example: Jesus tells us that after we are slapped, to turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5: 39) Now the slap is normal, and to return normal for normal is human nature. This is reasonable, spontaneous and up to a point, a logical and natural way, but it is not God’s way, which is the way of special grace or Christ. Christ uses a strategy of no violence. But an eye for an eye will make us blind, a tooth for a tooth will disfigure us, and violence for violence may cause a war to end us.
Special divine grace is to turn the other cheek and consider what is to be done to resolve the situation before a round of normalcy unlimited takes us deeper and further than we can handle. Our job therefore is at times to limit our bad runs of normalcy often pertaining to sex, anger, crime, outrage and selfishness by raising and moving normalcy to a higher level of special grace. Someone at times must call a stop to normalcy. We must pause in the blinded round of nature and interject some grace. This is why Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5: 9) They stop the round of normalcy (an eye for an eye) and enable normalcy to be held at bay long enough for them to be instruments of grace and thereby have peace.
Proverbs 16:25 cautions us that there is nature’s way, which sometimes seems right to us, but often is not. If we push nature’s way of reasoning too far, it will ruin us because reason turns into non-reason if pushed to extremes. (Reason is a good servant but a poor master.) In other words, we may drift in the current of nature’s stream for an enjoyable time, but there are times to consider if in continuing to drift, we may be being guided only by the currents of our nature. The currents of our natures if not guided by thinking and grace may lead us into treacherous waters and drowning depths.
Christ, the good shepherd, leads us into green pastures, but drifting along on nature’s currents (while rejoicing in overly liberal views and their moral inanities) may mislead you into easily falling into treacherous waters. Anyway that is why you have been given a mind, and have been given reasoning grace: to consider the currents that may be carrying you. Consider this in order to save yourselves before you drift and smash unthinkingly into the rocks, waterfalls and whirlpools in nature’s rivers.
There is natural common grace and divine “special grace.” We are created through common grace to live by special grace. Common grace is to be fulfilled by special grace. This is why we need special revelations of God, like Jesus, because we cannot just follow the direction of our natures (return the slap). We need special revelation above nature’s reasoning. But to see how to fulfill our natures (stop just slapping naturally; think in grace) takes a knowledge of divine revelation like that given in Christ who was sent through the mercy and love of God the Father.
(Now while it may be enjoyable and easy thinking to be a receiver of common grace, it is a real challenge to be a receiver of special divine grace. To be slapped has an answer that is easy thinking for the normal: Slap back. But not to slap back and to respond wisely and, perhaps, creatively to a challenge of life is not easy. This may be why Jesus was allowed to be crucified by God: TO SHOW US THAT THE LIVES OF THOSE IN SPECIAL DIVINE GRACE MAY NOT BE EASY BUT A CALL TO CARRY A CROSS AS DID CHRIST, OUR LORD.).
The end of normalcy should be to be grace filled. Normalcy by itself is not an end in itself but a beginning of the fight with self to transform normalcy into good. Yet if you think you are going to live on normalcy, you are vastly mistaken. That is Narcissism . Narcissism is a way of nature. Nature will boomerang if carried too far. If you send out narcissism, then narcissism will come back like a boomerang. For if nature is carried too far, it will reach a grace point where you must stop it, rise higher and appeal to grace. If reaching the grace point, you do not appeal to God for grace to handle it, nature will come back on you in a boomerang. That means: judgment is not done by a vengeful God, but judgment comes from universal principles and natural law laid down by the Creator God.
On the temple of the Greeks at Delphi was written: “Nothing To Excess.” And the Apostle councils us, “Let your moderation be known to all men.” (Philippians 4:5) Now natural law and universal principles often overlap because they come from the Creator God and are recognized by the prophets of our faith and many different faiths.
For natural and universal laws are like diamonds of common grace found and re-found. They are often re-used and set in other settings of special grace. But do they shine less? No, but it shows judgment does not come personally from a mean spirited God but from universal and natural principles the Creator God has set up in order that there be order and moral security. Violating these is like violating the laws of gravity, only the reactions are slower, finer, ironic, and more subtle. The mills of justice and morality grind, if slowly, yet exceedingly fine and regardless of person.
A call to grace is a call to recognize both natural laws seen by common grace and divine laws by special divine grace. (Nothing to excess is a natural law of common grace. Love thy neighbor and God are divine laws seen by special grace. Nature alone may see natural law in “nothing to excess” but only special divine grace can take us higher to love God and our neighbor.) Natural law is justice. Divine law is Love.
Let no one forget that common grace through normalcy and by natural law is not enough. They are good as a foundation, but common grace must be fulfilled by special divine grace. Natural law must be raised by special grace to be whole and complete. The natural law of justice is not enough. The special yeast of divine mercy, grace and judgment must fulfill it.
That is why Christ was sent by God in a much needed special revelation of a divine grace: that we realize the works of nature are good, that normal means a lot, but not enough if it does not include the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit of God is grace. And the test of grace is love. Therefore your normalcy is not enough by itself. It must be filled with grace and tested by love.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.