Confessions of a Grace Bully

This confession comes to us from Scott Brand. Recently, I decided to move from Orlando […]

Mockingbird / 8.19.15

This confession comes to us from Scott Brand.

Recently, I decided to move from Orlando to St. Louis for school. During the transition, I stopped for a week in Columbus, OH, to stay with my parents in the house in which I grew up. Most of my family still resides in Columbus, and, for the last five years, I haven’t been able to visit home very much. It was a good time to reconnect and catch up with cousins, aunts, and uncles, as well as begin the process of making my nieces not terrified of the bearded monster that insists on playing with them.

When I moved to Florida, I had the feeling that my family thought, “Good, he finally has some direction. Hopefully it will do him some good.” I had already dropped out of college and was still trying to figure out what “being an adult” meant. It certainly showed.

Coming back, I wanted to make sure that they knew that I was a changed man. No longer am I directionless. I get things now. I know adulthood. Most importantly, I understand grace.

Or so I thought.

Biff_TannenNot one day back in Columbus and I was in my mom’s van arguing with my family about the perils of Awana (of all things) and how it teaches kids a reward system (law) for memorizing scripture. I’m not sure why Awana was the particular target for me that evening, but I set my sights in and began to shell away at Fortress Awana with what I thought were “grace bombs.”

I thought I would show these graceless heathens the error of their ways (for anyone that knows my mother, to call her a graceless heathen is not only laughable, but deserving of capital punishment). But, instead of dropping grace bombs that lead to repentance from law addiction, I ended up turning the entire van against me. This wasn’t what I had anticipated! The very people I was hoping to “liberate” were turning against me! But why?

A few months back, I had an encounter with a couple that wanted to rebuke and correct me in my preaching about grace. They called me dangerous and accused me of giving license to sin. In the conversation, my initial reaction was “Ah! Here are some people that don’t get grace! How silly of them. Let me beat them on the head with grace until they feel awful about having ever confronted me! Let this be a lesson to them!”

In the course of the conversation, one thing became extremely clear: I didn’t really want them to “get grace” because I wanted them to feel awful about themselves. If they “got grace” a little more as a result of our discourse (which, in itself is putting way too much stock in my words), they certainly wouldn’t leave the conversation feeling defeated and inferior.


Grace, by it’s very nature, cannot be a weapon to win arguments. Winning an argument about grace looks more like holding hands and singing together than one side retreating with its tail between its legs. My pride tells me that the latter is much more satisfying.

Whenever I’m wanting to use it as a way to defeat my “Pharisaical” enemies, I have actually turned my grace into law.

Such is the addiction of my heart to law that I take the beautiful, undeserved gift of grace and transform it into a shiny fig leaf to wear to let others know that I get it and they don’t. I use that fig leaf to feel superior to other people. I wear it to family gatherings to prove to my family that I now have it all together. It’s presence is a badge of identity for those that want to know where I stand theologically and praise me for my rejection of the moralistic status quo. And whenever this fig leaf is threatened, I swing the hammer of theology to bring my opponents to their knees.

I’m a narcissistic jerk about grace.

I wish that there were a neat little repentant bow to put at the end of all of this. I could then tell the story about how I fell to my knees last night and woke up this morning and it was all fixed.

But the truth is that on this side of eternity my heart will continually be drawn back towards grace as law.

And that is yet another reason why I need grace.