I am going to try and describe in the best way I know how what is happening with Project 24 and not just with it but the work we are trying to do elsewhere as it pertains to mercy. But as I have been told, I never make anything simple and part of the reason for that is because when we bring together human beings and God’s mercy, the Law and the Gospel, there is only one simple thing and that is the Gospel.
Norman Nagel was a great theologian and a wonderful preacher. I would never try and put words into his mouth but after reading a talk he gave in Australia in 1989 I think his words and mine can be mingled.
“God has given us two Words and there is no bridge between them” as Norman Nagel once said. Human beings, all of us, even Christians will try and follow one track and one Word. We even do this in mercy. When we are given gifts to be administered and cared for and we believe that we are the stewards of mercy we follow what Nagel called “a single line of a progressive process of amelioration and improvement. changing man so that he becomes fit to be loved (or offered mercy, or partnered with in an attempt to deliver mercy), which is a sanative or transformational justification.” That is the way of the Law no matter how we pretty up the ideas and the concepts with words like “accountability” and “responsibility” and “transparency”. It operates on metrics and quantities and fractions and, if truth be told, coercion. If you don’t do things the great old American way and give us some results well then the Christian thing to do is pull out and leave you on your own. After all the Christian religion is all about accountability right? If we simply try and help without any results (from our perspective, and we are the arbiters of what is progress and what is not) then we are not being true to an all powerful God. All God’s projects (from our perspective) need to be sustainable because what use is a weak God who just gives because that is what He is? As Norman Nagel said, “Almighty power is the chief thing of Augustine’s God, and then it only remains to line Him up into your program, with you then calling the shots.” If those that we try and help; if our mercy work seems not to yield results; if our partners are called corrupt and wrong headed, well then get out and go somewhere safe and sane.
“The Gospel makes no sense at all. It takes God to do it.” When we try and make things work according to some program or plan or accountability regime God “swings in with something completely different, with being a God that we could never have imagined, hanging dead on a Cross. For, you. In your place.” This, God’s mercy is unconditional. As far as accountability is concerned this is the one who said about our charity that we should not let our left hand know what the right hand is doing. This is a God who runs to give us mercy just as we are about to say that we don’t deserve to be called His children. This is the one who died for us while we were enemies.
I fear that for many of us in the stewardship area and in mercy work we resort to expedients and techniques to help God be faithful to His name and words. Kind of like Sarah and Annanias and Sapphira.