By Daniel R. Gangler
Reading the Gospels never becomes a done deal. Our life situations drive new truths and new insights from familiar words reread with new contexts.
So was the discovery of Robert Corin Morris as he wrote Provocative Grace: The Challenge in Jesus' Words (Upper Room Books, 2007). But being a scholar of the Greek language, Morris went deeper into discovering that Jesus' words about grace in the Gospels were no impossible dictums to live, but provocative knock-your-socks-off truths to show just how far a loving God can go in exercising grace and forgiveness to others, all others without limits.
Jesus said words that got attention. That's why they were remembered and often repeated. That's why they become the upfront writings of a renewed and better understood belief and relationship with the God of history.
Morris feels that Jesus words were not to be lived as much as to challenge us in living out the reign of God even when the foundations of a great empire are shaken. God must be more interested in saving and redeeming the world than destroying it in some terrible apocalyptic event.
To get his point across about Jesus' provocative words and God's provocative grace, Morris uses numerous life experiences to explain the sometimes unexplainable words of our Lord. Following the first chapter, Morris arranges chapters thematically, covering the themes of transformation, hindrances, God's priorities, family values, simple justice, strangers, trusting news to be ultimately good, partnerships and encouragement not to lose heart.
If one is to understand the reign of God in this world, one needs to hear the real words of Jesus, better put - the raw words of Jesus. He didn't beat around the bush but talked most often in straightforward, imperative language.
The ten chapters are terse and end in questions, making this an excellent book to share in deeper discussions of faith. I especially appreciated Morris' approach by posting a saying of Jesus and then explaining his understanding of it through life experiences. Jesus taught in stories and if we are to understand the pronouncements of Jesus' we can understand them best in stories. That's messy theology, but good Christianity matching the cognitive with the subjective to discover a hidden truth that we have read before but have not necessarily understood before.
I found as Morris provided examples for his life, I thought of examples of provocative grace from my own life and the lives of those around me. This book is well worth the read and an important part of Bishop Coyner's Bundle of Books.
Provocative Grace: The Challenge in Jesus' Words is available from www.Cokesbury.com. I found it cheaper on www.Amazon.com, which also had used copies available at a 30 percent savings over the list price of $15. Cokesbury now offers it new for $12 plus shipping and handling.
For more discussion of this book, Mark Eustler has provided a blog that can be accessed at www.provocativegrace.blogspot.com. View responses to this book and add your own response, if you wish to do so.