Breathing Under Water (Rohr), ch. 5

“Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”  Step 5 from Alcoholics Anonymous

…a dualistic system of reward and punishment, good guys and bad guys, and makes perfect sense to the ego.  I call it the normal economy of merit or “meritocracy,” and it is the best that prisons, courtrooms, wars, lawyers, and even most of the church, which should know better, can do.

The revelation from the cross and the Twelve Steps, however, believes that  sin and failure are, in fact, the setting and opportunity for the transformation and enlightenment of the offender–and that the future will take care of itself. It is a mystery that makes sense to the soul and is entirely an “economy of grace,” which makes sense only to those who have experienced it.

You cannot heal what you do not acknowledge, and what you do not consciously acknowledge will remain in control of you from within, festering and destroying you and those around you.

He states that when one person confesses sin to another…”it is no longer an exercise to achieve moral purity, or regain God’s love, but in fact a direct encounter with God’s love.  It is not about punishing one side but liberating both sides.  If you are still inside the economy of merit, which is a quid pro quo universe, you will undoubtedly not like this, which is why it has taken us so long to get here.

He goes in a discussion of Ezekiel, God’s faithfulness to covenant in spite of Israel’s failure.  I just recommend reading Ezekiel (BPN).

Have you ever experienced the embarrassed red-faced look of shame and self-recognition on the face of anyone who has been loved gratuitously after they have clearly done wrong? This is the way God seduces us all into the economy of grace–by loving us in spite of ourselves in the very places where we cannot or will not or dare not love ourselves.

Only love effects true inner transformation, not duress, guilt, shunning, or social pressure.

Love is not love unless it is totally free.  Grace is not grace unless it is totally free.  You would think Christian people would know that by now, but it is still a secret of the soul.

Grace is always punishment for us.

He compares the two systems (grace and merit) by comparing two sequential processes, also referring to Ezekiel:

The usual and expected ego pattern is this:  sin →punishment→repentance→transformation

but proposes the Biblical truth is actually:    sin→unconditional love→transformation→repentance

I know have haven’t been blogging much, or interacting much in recent months on my blog, but I would appreciate some feedback and thoughts about what Rohr discusses in this chapter.  It seems foundational and paradigm-changing all at once.

Have you experienced the “grace economy”?  Why, when, or what happened?

Do you cling to the merit economy?  I can understand that, but it worries me.


One thought on “Breathing Under Water (Rohr), ch. 5

  1. Jonathon

    Hi Brian.

    Greeting from Australia.

    Thanks for your thoughts here. As a Christ follower and Rohr fan, I’m always keen to hear what others take from his insights. I know that he’s helped many folk rediscover their Father God who loves them so unconditionally. (Not sure I’m always 100% on everything Rohr says, but I’m always challenged to think!)

    I was interested by the two “grace-merit systems”. Two thoughts come to mind:

    1. Where does repentance fit into these sequences? Learning some good insights on what Jesus said repentance was from and

    2. Every person and circumstance is different but it would be useful to review the interactions that Jesus had with people through the Gospels to see which of the two systems were most commonly used.

    Perhaps one reason why it’s so tricky to love unconditionally is because we might “lose” the ability to control the outcome – as well intended as this outcome may be! (But here our usual win-loss mentality enters in again!) I’m challenged again to ask for heavenly wisdom (James 5) to simply live the Truth in Love as Jesus taught us to.


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