In this episode John compares grace and love. Specifically, John contrasts a listener’s story and Gregg’s story (both being fairly radical departures from the Christian norm) with his own path of not overtly departing from these norms. John’s epiphany is that the message of love makes far more sense than the message of grace (to him), because grace seems to begin with the notion that someone is horrible.
Gregg notes that grace implies a jarring sense of contrast with what one believes one deserves and so grace seems to show up better in relief, against a backdrop of wrongs committed. So Gregg contrasts grace and love: experiencing God’s grace is typically framed as receiving what one does not deserve, but Gregg’s experience of receiving God’s love was receiving what he needed but considered to be impossible. So the upshot is that if one sees oneself as being thoroughly undeserving of God’s love (God’s love is nonsensical to that person), they will necessarily experience God’s love first as grace. But the pardon and gift implicit in grace find their source in God’s love–they are an expression of love.
Ultimately then, in Gregg’s view, the purpose of grace is to habituate us to being in a love relationship with God: first to accepting God’s love for us as love (so that we may see ourselves as deserving of God’s love), second to be able to give that love back (so that we see ourselves as capable–capable of being rightly related to God, to ourselves, and to others).
Gregg likens this to the “serve-and-return” behaviour between parent and child that is so important in brain development in young children. This ongoing behaviour of serve-and-return between us and God is meant to establish our trust in God, trust that God has our best interest at heart (as one who loves us and knows us better that we do ourselves).
Overall, Gregg argues that grace is a subset of love, not the reverse. And so if one cannot but focus on the things that one has done wrong, then grace is the route to God. But the message that we should understand from God is NOT to be preoccupied with our wrongs. Instead, God’s message to us is: “Be preoccupied with me, because I am terribly preoccupied with you. I have been waiting for, calling to you, watching for you from a long way off.”
And so Gregg wonders: if grace is important to you but grace is a subset of love, how much more important might love be to you? Or, if you are focusing on grace but your spiritual life is frustrating or unsatisfying, might you need to re-focus on love?