A few months ago, while shopping at a used bookstore, I learned that my purchases earned me a free book! To my great joy I returned to browse through the rows of books for even longer. When I left I had a copy of a book titled, A New Understanding of Grace: How Good Do We Have to Be? by Harold Kushner. I was curious to hear someone's "new understanding" of grace. Especially for free. =-)
One of the most striking aspects of the book was the "re-telling" of the story of Adam and Eve. He spoke about God as being pained by the knowledge he bore, like God was lonely. Adam and Eve's first sin -- this he described almost as a sort of graduation rather than a cleavage between mankind and God. Rather than God's wrath being invoked as a result of their sin, God welcomed them to join Him in His world. Kushner described it like God had a sense of pride, like a parent has in seeing his child venture out on her own, to encounter good or bad.
This idea of God not being unhappy with our sin, of Him even being grateful for it frames the rest of the book. He continues on to teach that God knows better than to expect perfection, because he knows that humans will make mistakes.
How does a person of faith come to have such a loose idea God's standard for us? I understood that Kushner (a Jewish Rabbi) was not a Christian, but why does he even talk about grace? Grace is not lower standards! I realized that this is the end of someone of faith, whose faith is not in Christ. After failing God's standard for long enough, and never having any worthy means of reconciling with God - one turns to a lower standard. Like "re-telling" Adam and Eve as a graduation story. Like deciding that our lives of sin are okay, because God understands that humans will always make mistakes.
Kushner shared a pastoral counseling experience he had, in which a mother was feeling extremely guilty. He sent her off with some tasks to complete in order to earn forgiveness. He described that advice as the way to relieve the lady's guilt. He offered a Band-Aid of works to cover the wound of her own guilt.
This Band-Aid seems to be the faith that Kushner is teaching. With no Christ-sized bandage to cover our mortal wounds, we convince ourselves that we have only papercuts, and that all we need is a Band-Aid. This is a perversion of God's holy standard, and it spits in the face of God's worthy sacrifice, His Son.