|Credit: Creative Commons (asenat29)|
I have spent most of the last ten years with lots of lots of church people, and I am continually amazed that some people who have read the Bible and heard about Jesus their entire lives seem to have forgotten about grace. And it's happened to me, too in the relatively short time I've been following Jesus. I am alarmed that there have been times when I exhibited a lack of regard for grace, as though I was entitled to God's favor and the blessing of serving as a pastor in his Church. You might be a squeaky clean Christian who knows little of rebellion, but I can assure that is not my story. When I think of the total disregard I have had in my life for others' lives, hearts, and well-being, not to mention the number of times I have shaken my fist in God's face, I find it incredible that I have even been left alive long enough to write this post, let alone redeemed, reconciled to God, and called to be a pastor, a shepherd entrusted with the care of God's sheep.
But the fact of the matter is that none of us are good little boys and girls, squeaky clean Christians, saved by Jesus at a young age before we could commit any terrible sins. Yet we go to great lengths to hide the fact that we are, in all actuality, desperately in need of God's grace. We act as though we we are guests at some expensive party at an exclusive country club, nervously trying to fit in and play to part out of fear that someone might realize we don't belong at the party after all and ask us to leave. So we claim to understand that are saved--and are upheld--only by grace, while we dress up our sins and hide our wound, lest someone discover unexpectedly that we are broken, depraved, and unable to take a single bumbling step without the help of our Father.
What is ironic about our misunderstanding--or avoidance--of grace is that in general, we (or at least those of us born in America) have been given so much just by the nature of our birth country, yet we do not grasp that our very life--both present and eternal--comes from God. Of course, a large part of the problem is that we feel as though we have earned and are entitled to our advanced medical care, central cooling systems, and houses so full of food we throw 14% of it away because we cannot eat it fast enough or are simply too full to finish our dinner. But no matter what the cause is, it is clear that we simply do not understand grace.
And that is a big problem. It's also a ridiculous problem. For without grace, we are but preschool children claiming that nothing we have was given to us by our parents, but rather earned by our hard work and industriousness. And if you're the parent of a preschooler, you realize how ridiculous that picture is. So when we forget about grace--about the fact that everything we have is unmerited--we forget that we are owed nothing yet given everything.
So if you're a follower of Jesus, please don't forget about grace the next time you teach, preach, or come into contact with another human being. Because without grace, you have nothing. And without grace, nothing about what Jesus said or did makes any sense whatsoever.