Grace Notes #4
This is the fourth in a series on grace, focusing on some problems in the so-called hyper-grace movement. Thank God there are some fine grace teachers spreading the word about God’s infinite grace. This is not directed at them. You might want to check out the first three posts on this timely topic starting with Grace Notes #1. Then, Grace Notes #2 and #3.
When I was a boy, one of the daily cartoon shows I watched faithfully was Popeye the Sailor Man. (I can even still sing the song…and I know some of you can too). Popeye was utterly predictable and the end of the cartoon always included a spinach-driven resolution. Nevertheless, I loved it.
One episode is especially memorable. Well, fuzzily memorable. Popeye was chasing Bluto (Popeye’s never-ceasing rival for the love of Olive Oyl) up a mountain road. Bluto was far enough ahead of Popeye that he could not be seen by the sailor man. All of a sudden, Bluto screeched to a halt in front of an arrowed sign that pointed off the main road to “ROUTE D.” ROUTE D was obviously a horrible, jagged road, unpassable. I think there also a cliff with a deep canyon along the edge of ROUTE D. Clearly only a fool would turn off the paved main road for ROUTE D.
Bluto paused for a moment at the sign and then, noticing that the letters were movable, he rearranged the letters from ROUTE D to form the word DETOUR. He then continued up the passable road, content that Popeye would see the arrowed sign and veer off on the horrid “DETOUR” road and possibly fall to his demise.
As I remember it, Popeye was indeed fooled and faced imminent death….until he popped that can of spinach out of nowhere. But even as Popeye was wolfing down his version of steroids, I was sitting there entranced by the fact that the letters from ROUTE D could be conveniently rearranged to spell out DETOUR. What a brilliant realization from the script writers! I loved it.
I think about that cartoon as I consider the current hyper-grace teaching making the rounds. Though I consider myself a grace-believing person (because I so desperately need it), I’ve watched the effects on some Christians as they’ve veered off of the main highway of Grace and have believed the false “DETOUR” sign that leads to destruction.
This has happened as some (not all) of the teachers emphasizing hyper-grace have come along and rearranged the letters on God’s highway of Grace. Those urging this detour on others seem to believe that ROUTE D is a desirable detour. Sin no longer seems to matter along ROUTE D. In fact, in some cases, grace enables them to embrace their sin. If that’s not a horrible, jagged, unpassable road, I don’t know what is.
To be honest, I get the appeal of ROUTE D. But I’m not going there. I know that at its core it’s an appeal to indulge whatever fleshly appetites I choose. It’s sad enough to watch others incur injury on that road—I don’t need to experience it myself. Besides, I know that there are no detours along God’s highway of Grace. I’ve checked my map and the road ahead is open and clear. No detours necessary.
If you’ve taken that deadly detour, I encourage you to get back on the right road—ROUTE G. G for Grace as a means of “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12).
If you persist on ROUTE D, I’m afraid not even spinach can save the day.
Thanks for your wise (and grace-filled) words, Nick.
Watching it again a couple of times I ctiaernly agree with you about the success of the film being based on the warm character relationship between Popeye and Olive , but I’m also struck by the incredibly elaborate settings this all plays out on top of … all those crowd shots of people skating, the complicated layouts and animation of the automobiles (in perspective!), and subtle use of the animating background behind them as they’re skating and singing in the last shot. I’m eagerly waiting for the release of the Popeye DVD this summer.