Courting Dialogue

By accident (I say, knowing better), I ran into The Complete Jewish Bible. I was intrigued at its use of the word “grace” in all the places in the Psalms where we ordinarily see that wonderful expression, “steadfast love” or “loving kindness”. I had already become troubled by the careless way people threw around the grace-word. So began the study that took me into the research of that other wonderful word which my family had already taken to ourselves. For “KHESED”–as we spell it—is middle name of our daughter (who herself is a very lovely person, now grown up and mother of three of our grandsons).
I’ve called these, as I was writing them, my “Khesed Papers”; for they were variously written, at random and around the topic. Even now as I move to draw them together for printing, I see them as involving several aspects of the larger question that has concerned others with me—about “Grace”.
The research into khesed took me into some surprising discoveries that I can only call “lost dimensions of grace”—initially, its role in near-Eastern hospitality; and from there, its integral connection with covenant and the missionary promise given to Abraham, regarding “The Tribes of the Earth”. Then, in tracing the translations from Hebrew to Greek to Latin, I saw that there has been a “trouble with Grace” that long pre-dates our present delimited and (often) distorted use of it. It is a serious trouble that cuts at the very heart of God’s purpose regarding the world He loves so much and—more pointedly—holds implications for the Western Church regarding our peoplehood—namely, our spirituality, our church-life, and the way in which we merchandize the Gospel.
The implications, I’m trusting, will stir some dialogue, and likely some upset. The dialogue is what I hope for. As for upset—stories surrounding the forming of the Nicene Creed give us some encouragement, i.e., truth regarding the Evangel has always required the body of believers to do important grappling with it.
In the years following the Nicene Creed’s signing, controversy centered around Athanasius (293-373 A.D.), the main protagonist in the fight for affirming the full humanity of Christ (“fully God, fully man”). A brilliant young man in the early Church—he was only in his 20s when he was appointed Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt—he spent twenty of his next forty-some years as bishop, in exile, running and contending for his life. Condemned by fellow bishops who’d previously voted with him, banished by emperors, fugitive and with a reward on his head, he somehow lived, stood faithful, and prevailed. The much-disputed Nicene creedal statement stands as testimony to Athanasius’ perseverance—as well as to the startling working of the “God’s grace”.
For the LORD apparently uses such controversies to sharpen—even as with these early creeds, Apostolic and Nicene. He uses the ongoing dialogue of councils and symposiums, research and reportings, journals and critical reviews, updated translations and Bible studies—all—to sharpen the Church’s testimony and its ability with its gospel. God uses and purposes to use, as said from the beginning, a People as partners-in- salvation (Genesis 12:3ff.).
So I hope for renewed dialogue connecting “grace and mission”, covenant-community and calling. This paper is offered as an attempt to recover that which Oral Tradition for centuries has lost, with trust that the LORD JESUS can lay hold of his Bride and bring her to the point where she can serve him well—now in these crucial last days—and prepare her garments as the spotless Bride of his desire.