I have Tullian Tchividjian to thank for introducing me to Robert Farrar Capon. He included a snippet of the Capon quote I posted recently in the first chapter of his book One Way Love. There was an element of that quote that undid me the first time I read it. It continues to knock the legs out from beneath me.
The speaker asks for the restoration of “the comfort of merit and demerit,” begs to be shown that “there is at least something we can do, that we are still … the masters of our relationships. … But do not preach us grace … We insist on being reckoned with … spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.” My pastor spoke this past Sunday of our incessant bent toward trying to work and accomplish much so that our Father will rejoice over our goodness. We are trying to buy with our childish efforts that priceless gift that He has already freely given with no strings attached.
One phrase in particular in the Capon quote sticks in my throat. “We insist on being reckoned with.” Reckon is an old word. I sometimes use it solo when I don’t know just how to respond to something I’ve been told. It has to do with transaction, with a settling of accounts. It’s about counting, measuring, and declaring value. I insist on being measured. I insist on having value. I insist on being reckoned with.
It’s more than just passive disappointment at my inability to measure up. It is arrogant, chest-swelling posturing. I stand on my pile of refuse, lift a filth-stained fist to the heavens, extend a middle finger toward my Maker and God and shout Him down. Angry screams tear into the night.
“You come down here!”
“How dare you sit on Your throne and judge me unrighteous!”
“You come down here and treat with me, do business with me, wrestle with me. Deal with me. Reckon with me!”
“I demand a hearing! I demand a chance to prove my worth and value!”
“Come down, if You dare!”
I stare into the darkness. All is calm. I wait a few moments, somewhat resigned that this time I might’ve gone too far. Silence. Nothing. Convinced that I’ve called His bluff, I lower my eyes and cast around for Capon’s few shreds of self-respect to congratulate myself upon. Then a single, small sound on the cool, night air. Human. Indistinct. Perhaps a baby’s cry. Perhaps a mother’s soft singing. Maybe a shepherd beginning to believe.
A friend of mine and I meet every week, going through Tchividjian’s book together. I sat in a Panera early one morning a few weeks back with tears welling up in my eyes.
“He came,” I said. He came down. I screamed treason to heaven and mocked my Lord to His holy face. I told Him to prove Himself, to deal with me … and He came. Not with armies. Not with wrath and judgement. Not with all that I deserved.
The Church Father Athanasius in his treatise On the Incarnation, wrote:
He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that His creatures should perish and the work of His Father for us men come to nought, He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own.
He came down. He came down and took to Himself a human body like mine. He came down after me.