This week, the reality and need for grace seems so evident to me. Here a couple of new thoughts:
Grace is offensive. To look at a sinner (us) and say “I love you just the way you are” is offensive. Even the offender, though they hope for love, truly expects and almost wants to be rejected, so that their sin seems properly judged and punished. But when we hear those words, “I love you anyway,” it offends us to the core. How is it possible that love could be offered when such grievances have taken place? Yet, this is exactly how God handles us. Day after day, even on our good days, we stumble and fall. We think the wrong things, we say too much, we say too little, or even worse, what we do or say is completely hypocritical or sinful. Yet God’s heart is for us.
Grace is fireproof. We can throw our two-year old tantrums and hold our breath and stomp our feet, completely being brats who want their own way, and yet God still loves. This does not mean he approves of our behavior. (Any parent can tell you this truth.) But this is where so many of us get it wrong. The act of loving someone does not invite our permission for them to treat us however they want. Grace from God does not mean he tears down all boundaries for our lives and says “have at it.” But grace instead suffers the violence of our behavior and our attitude and our sin. It is the lighthouse on the breakers in the midst of the storm, refusing to turn off it’s beacon to safety in the most dire of dangers. It provides a path back to safety, to freedom, if we will listen and obey.
Grace is deliverance. It is only in the realization that there is a love for me that’s willing to put up with all my *stuff* and stand in the midst of the fire for me that I find healing. The three Hebrew young men who faced the furnace of fire found that they were not alone in their distress. The very fire that was meant for their destruction was the instrument of their deliverance. Grace is like this for us. Complete and honest love in the face of all my sin enters my life like the fourth man in the furnace. If I can trust that this is true, if I can relinquish myself to this love and truly believe I am loved, my chains are melted away and I am freed. Grace makes it possible for me to live above sin, no longer bound by its control over me. Why? Sin is simply my trying to fill the holes of my life, searching for that true love and acceptance that I am missing. But when grace arrives, when I let grace take HIS place in my life, I find I no longer need these other things to fill the holes, for grace makes up the difference.
Grace is oxygen. I need oxygen to live, and so I also need grace to live. I need to know I have his favor, but I must remember that the essence of grace is found in the fact that it’s unearned. Nothing I’ve done has gained this love for me. So I have nothing to boast in myself. I have done nothing to produce this connection I have with God, outside of receiving it and cultivating it like every other relationship in my life. But I could do nothing to create it. I am dependent. I am impoverished without it. Paul said it best when he said, “it’s not by works…lest any man should boast.” No work of my hands could give me this favor in my life, so all I can do is return it to God in praise and live to please him and him alone.