Total Depravity, Total Grace

Faith Matters
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You’ve heard (or asked) the question a thousand times in a thousand forms: Is something good, or is it bad? Did I do the right thing or the wrong thing? Is that man’s lifestyle pure or impure? Is a song sacred or secular? Is a certain political position biblical or unbiblical?

The way we ask these questions implies there is only one acceptable answer—black or white, right or wrong—and that the “Christian” answer should be self-evident.

The implication of questions like these is that we have a 50-50 chance of doing the right thing in any given situation and that making right choices all the time has eternal consequences.

That’s a huge burden and one that is likely to squeeze the joy out of life.

In 1998 I lost my 17-year-old daughter, Carla, in a car accident. That experience left me completely vulnerable and vividly conscious of the battle between good and evil. Since then I’ve taken a very different approach to life and have found a few affirmations of my point-of-view along the way.

The struggle between good and evil isn’t a 50-50 proposition. I’m not guilty half the time—I’m guilty all the time and fully reliant on saving grace to turn my impurities into holiness, my mistakes into salvageable outcomes.

We’re 100 percent evil, totally depraved, incapable of pure thoughts and choices on our own. Praise God for 100 percent grace (or maybe it’s 200 percent).

Salvation is the ultimate trump card for whatever life throws us. What this means on a daily basis is that I live by grace to bring good results out of bad thoughts, actions, words, and circumstances.

I always hated the “total depravity guilt trip” when I was growing up, but now I understand it as the condition that makes grace truly amazing. I make plenty of wrong choices. I’m learning to “fail successfully” by letting my bad choices inform me about better options. I think this is what is meant by the biblical concept of God turning evil to good.

When I take a step back and look at my life at this stage, I’m astonished at what God is up to in me and through me—and all in spite of me. I’m completely broken. I have size 101/2 EE feet of clay. But God seems to recruit wounded soldiers for the front lines of his adventures and battles. I’m mystified by this, but going with the flow.

A big part of me died along with Carla. The rest of me nearly didn’t survive either. Since her death, I feel every day is a gift. I also have no fear of my own death because it will be the moment I move from the struggle to the reward, from the uncertainty of the battle to the surety of the victory, from 100 percent evil to 200 percent grace.

About the Author

Ken Hekman is a healthcare management consultant in Holland, Mich. He is the author of Treasures of Darkness, a book of poetry and prose about his grief journey since his daughter’s death in 1998.

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