True confession: I often have a really hard time bringing ideas and concepts down to ground level. I don't think that this is an entirely unique experience. In fact, I think for many people, brainstorming and theorizing comes much more naturally than executing and implementing.
I could spend pages upon pages extolling the virtues of academic theology. I devoted a good chunk of my life to intentional study of the Bible, theology, and Church history. It's been a huge gift, and one that I wouldn't trade for anything. However, one potential downside of academic theology is that it can miss the day-to-day. Most pursuits are this way. The more you specialize, the more you tend to grow myopic in your perspectives.
One of the biggest limitations of ivory tower thinking is that it misses the inherent tensions of experience. Usually there is a lack of resolution in our actual lives. We've been trained to analyze biblical concepts through systems and grids. Concepts like Grace. We end up treating them like geometric proofs rather than glorious life altering realities.
Honestly, my tendency to evaluate God's good gifts in the abstract makes me all the more thankful for guys like Caleb Kaltenbach.
It's hard to think of grace as an "out there" idea when you've experienced completely complicated, beautiful, painful, joyful, and life-giving relationships like he has.
"Jesus loves me, this I know."
That applies to us all; each and everyone of us. Caleb totally gets that. When Caleb was 3 years old, his parents split and both took on same-sex partners. Marching in pride parades and going to LGBTQ parties as a child, Caleb's coming out experience was when he came out to his parents, not as gay, but as a Christian. Years later he's become a pastor, AND yet his family has maintained a sense of closeness, love, and community. How?!
Talk about messy. Talk about complicated. Talk about grace. Grace from above, and grace for one another.
His family's story is the epitome of the modern day grace experience. Lots of struggle, many difficult conversations, and Jesus' love at the middle supporting and tending to it all.
Caleb has helped me see in reality what I always suspected in abstraction: it's possible to hold deep convictions, and be a source of great love and tenderness. Grace and truth always have, and always will need one another to penetrate our hearts and minds.
I'll leave you with a brief word from Caleb:
"God has a lot of grace. He has been tremendously gracious to you and me over and over again. In ways we know and in ways we can barely guess at. Without our deserving a single bit of it.
The problem is, despite being the recipients of so much grace, most of us still don't understand much about passing on that grace to others" (Messy Grace, 18).
"Jesus loves me, this I know." Amen!
But maybe we also need to remember: "Jesus loves them, this we know." Whoever that "them" is for you, remember, Jesus loves them too. Just like he loved the people of Ninevah. Just like he loved the sinners and tax collectors, and yes, even the pharisees.