Two Monuments and a Tenant
February 29, 2008 § 2 Comments
Last week, through an extraordinary set of circumstances I found myself walking down 42nd Street in Manhattan, NYC, near Bryant Park. It is a long story, so just trust me here. At some point I walked past two monuments, one historic, and the other symbolic to my thinking.
There in Bryant Park resides the ‘Grace’ building – a large structure that houses various enterprises – offices, retailers, that kind of thing, I suppose. I found it to be a somewhat symbolic kind of monument. The whole matter of Grace is the core of my personal delight in the Gospel – the fact that we are rescued from the slavery of ‘works’ and the impossibility of ever pleasing God in our own merits – a rescue that isn’t some religious exercise – but one that is rooted in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – amazing. I live in constant amazement that God has actually forgiven my sins.
Manhattan hosts another park – Battery Park, where you find harbor access to the Statue of Liberty – that beautiful ‘Lady’ who offers welcome to weary travelers seeking freedom, refuge and opportunity on America’s shores. She stands in plain view in the New York Harbor as America’s most enduring symbol of hope and freedom. War-weary soldiers and immigrants alike have been the beneficiaries of her warm reception. Children have written her ‘Thank You’ notes sincerely believing that she personally had allowed them entrance into their new country.
The symbolism of these two edifices, along with their juxtaposition, was not lost on me. When it comes to the Gospel, Grace and Freedom always go hand in hand. Where there is true Grace there is true Freedom. Grace enables me to see myself as God sees me – and not lose heart. At first this is a crisis because there is no sugar coating on the depth and reality of the sin that resides within me. Seeing ourselves in that light is horrifying, but the crisis passes and melts into relief as the misery of our shame and guilt are overtaken by the forgiveness of Jesus and His inexplicable unconditional Love. How could Freedom not result? Therefore I no longer have to hide the reality that I am riddled with flaws, frailties and insecurities, much less a universe of sins. If Christ has forgiven me (and He has, by His Grace), then I am free – free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2), and free from power of accusation (Romans 8:31-34).
But there is more – As noted, the Grace building houses several tenants, and, believe it or not one of them is an ice cream company called, ‘Crumbs.’
As I reflected on those two monuments and that one tenant, I thought that this is where many Christ-followers live – though the Grace and Freedom of the Gospel is ever before us, so many of us settle for the crumbs – a slavish sense of duty, religious platitudes, dungeons of unresolved sorrow and shame, the crushing weight of false guilt – the list goes on, really.
In fact, if we are completely honest, we all venture into that ‘neighborhood’ from time to time, if not daily. Something deep within us feels more comfortable being tenants than sons and daughters, being condemned than being reassured – in spite of the relentless encouragements of the Gospel to the contrary.
And it struck me that when these urgings fill us, we have to do what I did that day (only because I was headed elsewhere) – we have to walk past them. We can’t stop them. We can’t overtake them, and we can’t pretend they aren’t there – because they are and will be. But we can walk – believing that we live in the very real presence of the Grace and the Freedom that that have been secured for us in Jesus. This is for us to embrace in spite of our sometimes way-too-natural instinct to settle for the crumbs.