Let me just say up front: I know that some of you women proudly feed your family organic chaff flakes and hemp milk for breakfast. That’s your business. It’s likely that, within our own church family, there are ladies (for whom I have real brotherly affection) who harvest and mill their own wheatgrass, churn their own butter and have cheesecloth-covered vats of something fermenting in their basements. Again, that is none of my business (though I might question the legality of that last one!) This is America. If you feel strongly about giving your children arame, kefir, kelp and cod-liver oil smoothies, that is your constitutionally-protected right, and far be it from me to mock you. Again, that’s 100% your business! Now, some dear sister may be saying, “Oh, Ronnie! But you’ve just never had seaweed prepared right!” Thank you, but I’ll just trust you on that. And yes, I’ve seen Food, Inc.
I just want you to think about something for a second. Think about an Oreo cookie with peanut butter on top that’s covered with another Oreo. You got that? Now, spread peanut butter on top of your two-Oreo stack and put it in a cupcake-paper-lined muffin tin. Now, do that over and over until you fill up your muffin tin. Maybe two or three muffin tins. Then [and this is important] cover all these little Oreo-peanut butter stacks with brownie batter! Then, put them in the oven and bake them! And eat them! Warm. My father (who is from South Alabama) has a line that I think applies here. “You put one of those on top of your head and your tongue’ll slap your brains out trying to get to it!”
I don’t share this just to torment the men whose wives pack kale chips and sprouted flax nuggets in their lunch. I share it to illustrate a great theological truth. In fact, it is one of the most mysterious of all doctrines. And one that I love to contemplate.
In Latin, it’s called gratia communis — common grace. The Westminster Dictionary of Theological terms defines common grace as “God’s universal, non-saving grace in which blessings are given to humanity for physical sustenance, pleasure, learning, beauty, etc., as expressions of God’s goodness.” In short, common grace is every favor that is “common” to humanity — every pleasant experience or enjoyment short of conversion. Examples are everywhere.
- The joy of conversation.
- A well-crafted argument.
- Music (Boston College professor, Peter Kreeft has famously argued for God’s existence by pointing to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach).
- A well-told story.
- Marital intimacy.
- Wildflowers. (Beautiful flowers on the side of the road? That nobody plants?)
- A good, strong cup of black coffee.
Examples of common grace are abundant and enjoyed by all people — even those who oppose God — around the world.
I’m sure you’ve heard the familiar humanist objection: “How can I acknowledge a God Who permits earthquakes and hurricanes?” Seen rightly, this is no hard question. In a world populated entirely of those who have defied God’s rule, hurricanes are no mystery at all. Do you know what is a mystery? Oreo and Peanut Butter Brownies, that’s what. What explanation does a humanist have for the existence of Oreo and Peanut Butter Brownies? Surely, a man would have to be spiritually blind to bite into one of these and not testify to the glory of the benevolent God Who designed this experience! How aware are you that you were created by a kind God to recognize and distinguish various tastes? God has equipped us with a whole cluster of tiny, busy, highly-sensitive receptors — thousands of them — that awaken and excite and heighten our enjoyment of these good gifts! We’re given little neurotransmitters that direct chemical processes involving tryptophan and endorphins and serotonin. And it’s a completely involuntary response. It’s like shaking a happy little chocolate snow globe in your mouth! Why would God permit His enemies to know this experience? Common grace.
Let me encourage you. Ours is a world that was marred by rebellion. It is no surprise to you to hear that we are inhabitants of a broken world. Yet, in spite of that, there are (everywhere) evidences of God’s abundant generosity! We would do well, I think, to gratefully note all that is right in our imperfect world. God is very good to us. You might pause to thank God for your taste buds (that is, unless your mother insists on giving you kale chips, which might’ve caused them to go dormant. And atrophy.) I contend that it would be an appropriate application of 1 Corinthians 10:31 (and not the least bit irreverent) to fix and enjoy this expression of common grace. Then, wipe your mouth, set down your napkin and sing the Gloria Patri. God is good. And praise is right. You can find the recipe here.