Grace Hurts Harder – Gorilla Poets (2012, ?)

Click on image to listen to song for free.

We move from the #1 bestselling album (at least this week),  the Les Miserable movie soundtrack, to an obscure band with only a single song to their name that most of us have never even heard of.  We also swing the pendulum from the classical, theater-style sound of our fathers to a modern, laid-back tune from our youth.

Gorilla Poets are brand new (they don’t even have a website yet).  In fact, they haven’t even really arrived yet.  Nevertheless, a little background on these guys is definitely worth considering.  See if you can follow this: First, we have the slightly well-known author, N. D. Wilson, who is known best for his exiting, fantasy-based young adult novels.  He has also written a couple of nonfiction works, one of which plays into our song selection for today.  Next, you have Aaron Rench, who spearheads a not-so-well-known writing/filming enterprise entitled “Gorilla Poets.”  These two guys came together to write the music and lyrics for our song, which was then performed by the actual band members (names appear on the song link), who have no notoriety (at least, none that I could google).  Finally, the song is intended to be a single release in anticipation of a future album that will serve as a companion to the nonfiction book to be release by Wilson this coming May entitled, “Death By Living: Life is Meant to Be Spent“.  So, did you follow all of that?

Well, whatever the case may be, this song captivated me instantly – both in lyric and style.  The sound of Gorilla Poets is probably best described as a cross between The National and Guggenheim Grotto.  If you don’t know those names, then don’t bother figuring it out.  Just put into that general folk-guitar category and you’re good to go.

The lyrics, however, are unmistakably heart-piercing and truth-shouting (I’m a little obsessed with hyphens today, sorry).  Fair warning, you are gonna want to read/listen to this more than once in order to really get it:

Took a drive in the car to visit the house of sorrows
But the woman at the door said maybe come back tomorrow
Rustle some feathers, shake up the weather
Turn up the trouble, make it a double

In the middle of the flood a dove
In the fires there was a yell
Drink the shame but taste the love
Only grace hurts harder than hell

Took a ladder up a tree just to claim my grief
But the man with the nails, he called me a thief
The curtain was torn, you’re asleep till you’re born
Now there’s mud on your eyes, blood on your lies

In the middle of the flood a dove
In the fires there was a yell
Drink the shame but taste the love
Only grace hurts harder than hell

If you’re still lost and wonder what the intended meaning of these lines are, rest easy.  This is a biblical reflection on the power of God’s grace versus man’s depravity.  Theologically speaking, the Gospel is the propitiation (redirection) of God’s righteous wrath that we (mankind) deserve, but was instead put on God’s Son – Jesus Christ when He died on the cross.  In essence, we earned punishment and damnation, but God trumped our sentence with His own grace.  Grace is more powerful than any other force in existence.  So why does grace hurt harder?

This question can be answered a number of ways – all of which are beautiful and God-glorifying.  For one, grace hurt the power of sin and hell in a permanent and absolute way.  And that is saying something extraordinary!  Hell is an unstoppable, righteous force that God should and could rightly put on each and every one of us sinners.  Nothing can undo the necessity of a Holy God’s plan to appease His unchangeable holy nature – nothing except His unchangeable nature that includes the even mightier power of grace.  In Christ, it is not as though God said to the redeemed one, “Oh, you don’t have to pay that silly price for your sins.”  No.  It is that the redeemed one is (by definition) bought and paid for by Christ’s blood and sinless life, so that both holiness and grace are equally preserved, exalted and glorified.

And so grace hurts harder, additionally, because when the believer is saved by Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice we are awakened to the cosmic reality of how badly we have hurt God with our rebellion.  “Took a ladder up a tree just to claim my grief; but the man with the nails called me a thief.”  Think that through for a moment.  We strive and toil all our lives to win God’s favor, but all of our efforts only result in worsening our position against a perfect Being.  The “man with the nails” is Christ and He is hanging there in agony on your behalf, crying out, “You are the thief (sinner), but I’m dying for you anyway, because I love you!”

When we meditate on these truths and let them sink deeper and deeper into our black, corroded souls it becomes more and more shameful to see.  And yet that grace is still there – unending and unrelentingly pulling us back up to the face of a smiling, forgiving God who says, “Call me, Abba!”

Ephesians 2 says, “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world.  He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Only grace can do these things.  Only grace can hurt the powers of sin and hell for the one who embraces Christ.  Only grace can make us feel our true shame and sorrow for what we really are apart from the blood of Jesus – and then turn right around and make us hurt (or ache) for the future that has been bought for us in Heaven with our perfectly gracious God!  Grace hurts harder, my friends.  Keep your eyes and ears honed in for these guys…I can’t wait for more.