All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man are of his mere grace, bounty, or favour; his free, undeserved favour; favour altogether undeserved; man having no claim to the least of his mercies. It was free grace that “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul,” and stamped on that soul the image of God, and “put all things under his feet.” The same free grace continues to us, at this day, life, and breath, and all things. For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God’s hand. “All our works, Thou, O God, hast wrought in us.”
The opening words of the first standard sermon of John Wesley are the simple claim that all we are and all we have come not from ourselves, but God. This is not, so far as I know, a controversial Christian claim. It is not unique to Wesley or Methodism.
It does gall us, though. We don’t like the tone of it. We don’t like the implication. We share Lucifer’s desire to get the recognition we believe we deserve. We reduce God to a cosmic butler who exists only to make us happy and serve our needs.
Stanley Hauerwas has written before that one of the great challenges of Christianity is forming people who can hear the truths of Scripture and faith without outrage. I think the doctrine of Creation is one of those cases. We talk a good deal about Creation theology these days, but it is quite often miscast as a warmed over Earth Day celebration. What Creation reminds us of is that we are created. We are recipients of tremendous gifts. Our existence itself is not necessary. It is the choice of God.
We are God’s creation. We are invited to live into that truth, to embrace it with joy. To object when told or convinced to accept less.