“There needs to be more regulation.” This is the consensus that has come from most politicians and national economists in the wake of the Wall Street mortgage meltdown in 2008. Amid all the finger pointing and shoulder shrugging, this seems to be the one thing on which most people agree. Over the past fifteen years or so, the argument goes, government was too soft on the business sector and gave them unprecedented freedom by deregulation. Business then took that freedom and went crazy, making deals that were so complicated and twisted that after months of scrutiny by numerous accountants, no one seems to know how broke the major firms really are. The cost of excessive freedom has proven costly indeed. The solution to fixing the mess and preventing its recurrence has been a call for there to be more oversight and greater control to keep CEOs and companies from running amok with people's money. If deregulation was the problem, then regulation is the answer.
As we move through Lent and prepare for Easter, I spend a lot of time thinking about the cross. As Lutherans, the cross is at the heart of our theology, but is especially present during Lent and Good Friday. As I was thinking about it recently, with the news of our economy in the back of my mind, an amazing thought struck me: God's grace is unregulated. That's right, God's grace has no regulations. In this time when everyone is clamoring for greater oversight and tighter controls, God continues to operate without any restrictions. Now, this is not to say that God could be regulated or controlled, but the wonder is that God chooses to operate without any restrictions.
Think about it. We confess that we are saved by grace alone, meaning that it is God's gift to us and that we can have no effect on God's decision to give it to us and that the promise is good into eternity. In other words, we receive salvation without any preconditions and free from any revocation clauses. It is completely unregulated. God simply throws it around willy-nilly.
Think about the story of the Prodigal Son (or Expectant Father) in Luke 15. When he sees his lost son returning the father runs (runs!) to meet him, embraces him and immediately calls for a celebration. The son doesn't even get a chance to apologize. And the father doesn't scold him; he doesn't give a don't-do-it-again warning; he doesn't ask for an accounting of his fortunes. The father embraces him. That is unregulated love.
But wait! We've seen where this can lead. Without regulations, people run amok, they go beyond the bounds of common sense or decency and act solely for themselves. That is true for banks and for grace. Because it is unregulated, we are free to treat God's love however we wish. We are free to ignore the cross. We are free to yawn as we are told of Christ's sacrifice for us. We are free walk away from the greatest free gift we could ever receive. Many do. And yet God continues to insist on a deregulated grace market and throws around the capital like a stimulus bill on crack. Such is the scandal of grace.
However, if we have received this gift and properly appraised its value, how can we not act appropriately? How can we not use this gift for the good of all people? How can we not respond with generosity and joy? What end could possibly be greater than the one God intended for us? We're free to ignore it, but why would we?
As people continue to demand greater accountability from Wall Street and controls on the markets, there is one place where deregulation has always been the norm and always will be. God pours out his grace upon us in unregulated fashion so that we are free to live life however we want. How will you choose to live yours?
From the Gray,
“You’d see that we should never be afraid to die.” -Muse, “Uprising”