That Bloody Grace



The motion picture Dunkirk recaptures the story of how grace transformed a colossal military blunder during World War II into a historic rescue of epic proportions.  It appeared to be a moment that would cost Britain the war. More than 300,000 British and French soldiers and sailors found themselves trapped on a beach at Dunkirk, encircled by a tightening noose of Nazi troops and tank brigades intent on slaughtering them all.

An opening caption from the movie explains they were waiting for deliverance; hoping for a miracle. Their answered prayer would arrive in the form of some 700 small, privately owned boats shuttling warriors away from imminent disaster over a few days and nights.  It was a costly miracle; unarmed fishermen, merchants, and school teachers risking everything- and some losing it all– for the warriors who had marched off to war to save them in the first place.

That dimension of grace- the ominous, terrifying part– explains why we who call ourselves Evangelicals can seem so false, so inauthentic, to a skeptical world. With a wink and a smile, we sometimes reduce the extravagant gift of God to a free toy in a box of cereal. We are quick to argue that our salvation is better than recreational drugs, more thrilling than immoral sex, more satisfying than a meal at a five-star restaurant.  And God has tossed it into the box for free if you’ll say a prayer and come to church.  Open up the box, find your free gift inside, and you’ll be hap-hap-happy forevermore.

If that doesn’t sound very convincing to thoughtful people, it’s no wonder.  It’s not even persuasive to religious types who sometimes prefer not to think.

I once participated in a popular ministry that trained believers for evangelism.  It was organized around a simple outline that explained the wonder of grace, the sacrifice of Christ, and the urgency of repentance and faith.  In case a listener should confess Christ, there was a simple prayer of faith.  That was followed immediately by a brief recap of the Gospel along with directives to read the Bible and watch out for Satan.

I once heard a trainee ask a leader, “Why are the attacks by Satan not mentioned until after the personal commitment?”  The leader replied, “Well, we don’t want to discourage people.”  Maybe that’s why they become disillusioned and drop out later.  Where is all that uninterrupted peace and joy, anyhow?

I suspect skeptical Millennials and Generation Z will demand full disclosure. The gospel delivers followers of Jesus Christ to a higher quality of life, but not a perpetual Happy Hour.  Faith is not a Safe Zone; it’s never far from danger. Christians live as though something is at stake because it is.  Something very important is on the line.  Worship is a celebration, but godly living happens on a spiritual battlefield.  It’s messy.  We are compelled by love to get our hands dirty. Ask any parent: real love really hurts.

If the saga of Dunkirk remains deeply fascinating today, it’s not because the boats were so small or so numerous.  Most of those vessels had traveled the Channel before. Dunkirk captures the imagination and inspires us today because a profound catastrophe on a massive scale was about to explode on that beach in France; and because so many who could have looked away were willing, instead, to choose love over safety.  Amazing grace is always about someone who has chosen love over safety.

The battlefield where Jesus Christ won the day for us was splattered with his blood. It followed years of rejection, inconvenience, and sacrifice.  Christ even warned his disciples that very soon they, too, would be arrested, hounded, threatened, and put to death (Matthew 24:9.)  It hardly sounds like a Carribean cruise, does it?

The Lord practiced transparency: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The grace of God is deep and awesome.  It reaches us in our darkest moments of despair.  It transports us to a life of purpose, satisfaction, celebration, friendship, and adoration. But the moments in the mountains are particularly delightful because the months in the valleys test our faith to the limits. Ultimately our saving faith is like gold, which can only be refined by fire, but which becomes more precious after it is purified.  And one day we arrive in Heaven!

So give ’em the whole gospel!  Let them see that those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. And lift up the Cross!



3 thoughts on “That Bloody Grace

  1. Am I correct in assuming you like responses?
    What I find the most fascinating about the Battle of Dunkirk is that after sweeping up into the Netherlands and down through Belgium in what was to be called the “Sickle Cut” the Germans were served massive blunder after blunder by the French commanders of the allied forces, finally being cut off from the British Elite the allied forces found themselves surrounded on the beaches of Dunkirk.
    The Germans moved with the lightning speed of Blitzkrieg, closing in on the French beaches, Churchill was considering surrender; all efforts to save 330 thousand troops seemed lost. German command considered them doomed.
    And then came what they don’t seem to cover in the movie, the real miracle, the German command received a halt order and stopped their advance on Dunkirk.
    This decision to halt provided 8 days in which the Brits conducted the miraculous evacuation of Dunkirk. This decision to halt arguably changed the outcome of WWII.
    Had Germany taken those 330 thousand men off the battlefield they would have effectively shut Britain out of the war in its early stages and effected D-day which was another miracle of timing and weather.

    Why did the German command halt their advance when they had such a clear shot at destroying a third of the allied force? There are many theories but one is seldom considered.
    “For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”
    In contradiction to our last president, America IS a Christian Nation and WWII put that Christian Nation on the world stage and in a leadership role.
    Before WWII America was an inland, unconcerned about the rest of the world having matured from its infancy.
    History is a continuous thread of God’s plan. Not everything is of his doing but everything is used for the advancement of his plan. God shapes men’s minds and hearts to comply with his will and to comply with His plan.
    But one will ask “but what of free will”
    Man is free to give and to receive, to walk in the way of his choosing; to believe and to deny but where in scripture is man told he is free of Gods will? It is God who is free to intervene in man’s plan. God will make of the clay that which is most pleasing to Him and He will shape the heart of man as fits His purpose and we know His purpose is for the Good.

    1. Thanks, Rick. I always enjoy reading what folks are thinking but don’t often have one to respond. Your insights on Dunkirk are accurate. Thanks for your feedback. Never hesitate o comment.

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