The central point of Christianity is that in the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have the clearest picture anyone is going to get of that from which all things derive. What is at the heart of all things? Why is there something rather than nothing? The answer is not a concept or a principle or an idea or a law but a person. And the overarching theme of that person's life is continuous, unconditional love. The universe is formed in Love. We are formed in Love. Which all sounds a bit syrupy and naff unless we are careful about what we mean by "Love". Scott Peck uses a definition which seems accurate to me: The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth. We seem to be formed to grow and develop; and the movement towards us from the universe itself ( and from the Great One who is the beginning and cause and end of the universe) to bring about that growth is what we Christians call Grace. Our tendency to try and evade that growth is what we call sin.
Well, so far so good. The trouble is, we in the Church tend ceaselessly to separate these two things which make no sense without each other, and in doing so, make a travesty of the message we are supposed to be proclaiming. It is the tendency of some parts of the church, for example, to emphasise sin and forget about grace; so the horrors of human weakness are emphasised, and formulaic appeasement is made to a vengeful, intractable, irascible God. The overcoming of sin depends less on God's unconditional love for all people (that is, God's movement towards us) than on our making some clearly defined set of commitments or on our keeping of some set of rules or other (that is, our movement towards God). In contrast other parts of the church stress grace but seem to have forgotten why Grace might be needed. The universal human tendency to evade what is actually in our own best interests is ignored and the life giving impulses in our personalities are accepted as limply as our viciousness is excused. Both are explained as accidental variance in the human condition, to be understood and valued with even handed acceptance
If I have no conception of Grace, I will forget that the tendency I so acutely observe in others to vigorously evade the light is an unconquerable characteristic of my own soul as well. If I have no clear perception of sin, I will not understand the seriousness of my own or anyone else's behaviour. In either case, I have lost all sense of Paul's powerful words. My actions matter, says Paul, and if I get them wrong, as I invariably do, they can be deadly to myself and to others, but, he continues, in the same sentence, without pausing for breath, God's movement towards me is ceaseless and powerful and restorative. To find life, all I need to do is to stop running for long enough to recognise who I am, and who God is..