I almost didn’t want to read this book. There are a lot of books about grace. Many of them are underwhelming. They pit law against grace and New Testament against Old. Some books are fluffy and lack substance. Some books mistake grace for poor quality control (the results are almost always bad). I decided to go ahead and review The Romance of Grace anyway because the author lives in my hometown and is a teaching pastor at a church I drive by often. Then a strange thing happened: I liked it.
Jim McNeely III explores the operations of Grace in a winsome and engaging manner. In his opening chapter he explores two of Jesus’ parables. The first is of the man who for the joy of it, sells all he has to buy a field with a hidden treasure. The second parable likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a merchant who sells all has to buy a pearl of great price. These parables tell us something about how grace works. When we get grace, joy motivates us to give our life a way to enjoy the treasure God has for us.
McNeely explores the implications of grace for the Christian life and how God saved us because of his great love. McNeely interprets the Fall as the moment when humankind divorced God’s moral goodness from the aesthetic Good(Eve saw that the fruit which God said not to eat was good for eating). The implication of this is that our desires are disordered and we end up calling good, things which are not good (or lesser goods). God’s extravagant love brings both senses of good together again.
In each of the chapters of this book, McNeely explores a facet of grace. Does grace mean that we can do whatever we want because we have a get-out-of-hell free card? Not anymore than the fact that your spouse loves you means you can cheat on them (BTW don’t even think it!). But it isn’t that grace demands or coerce.s It compels. Like the man who buys the field for ‘the joy of it,’ we act graciously and faithfully because we know the love of God in our depths and it wells up within us. McNeely also explores how grace relates to predestination, spiritual gifts and the church, worship and wonder. God woos us with his love and his grace touches every part of our lives.
McNeely is a good communicator and I loved his illustrations (many drawn from movies and pop-culture, a few from his family life and personal experience). So many books about grace are fluffy but I found McNeely substantive and insightful. This is a good picture of grace and the love of God. I happily give this book 4 stars and think that you will find its description of the romance of grace compelling.
Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.