Grace and works have never been sliding-scale variables. Grace without boundaries will undoubtedly lead to some abuse. But it will also lead to people experiencing Jesus, many for the first time. And, I don’t care who you are, once you experience Jesus, He rocks the foundations of your theology. Once you see Grace, whether it visits your living room, comes to you through a child in West Africa or a cancer diagnosis, you’re eternally grateful for the weight of your gift.
And every breath in your lungs lives to serve Grace, not because you must earn something but because you’ve seen Someone. You feel the weight of this indescribable love, and you realize this love isn’t about equations or balancing acts. It’s about Jesus.
The conversations you entertained previously about reverence, works and grace are out the window. You’ve never been more reverent, your works have never been more meaningful ultimately because your eyes have never seen Grace this clearly.
Those who “abuse” grace are actually abusing some faulty definition or false ideal. These individuals haven’t seen the real Jesus. Once you encounter him, you stop living for number one and start living for the One. You stop thinking grace gives you license to sin and start wondering how you could even entertain sin?
6.) We struggle with being indebted and receiving from others.
If you want to see awkwardness on full display, buy a nice gift (preferably during Christmas but anytime will do) and hand that gift to someone. It’s alright if you know them as long as this individual isn’t expecting the gift. Then ask he or she to open your present in front of you.
What ensues is pure, unadulterated awkwardness.
Chances are the recipient will immediately leave to purchase you a gift, return the favor so to speak.
Why? We hate being indebted. For many (probably most) Christians, gift-giving seasons like Christmas aren’t opportunities to lavish others with generosity. They’re opportunities to show others we’re in control. Let’s be honest, we’re much better at the giving thing than the receiving thing.
As Oscar Romero says, “It may well be … more blessed to give than to receive. But it’s more difficult to receive.”
If you’re hesitant to buy into this idea, picture this scenario, then answer accordingly. Christmas is tomorrow, and for some reason (financial strain, fraud, whatever) you have no money for presents. Zero. Zilch. Nada. And you have no means to acquire money before your family gathers for its annual Christmas shin-dig, where everyone is expected to bring presents.
You have two options: show up without presents … or … fake an illness?
“Hey, Frank. You forgot option three. Re-gift old crap you never used.”
Touche. But stop ruining my illustration.
I would rather someone hit me in my “tenders” (to steal from Kung Fu Panda) than show up without gifts.
Everyone would wonder what’s wrong. “Frank must really be struggling. He can’t afford gifts? Is it time for an intervention? Maybe Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace guide or something?”
Showing up with gifts tells others you have it together. This is the opposite of grace, and a big reason Christians struggle to understand it.
Grace is indebtedness. Grace is powerlessness. When someone gives you something of value, you instantly feel they have power over you. It’s as if someone paid the remaining balance on your house, then handed you a million bazillion dollars for good measure. Would you not feel indebted to them? I wouldn’t stop until I found some way to return the favor. But I know all my possessions combined times a million couldn’t repay the gift.
Jesus shows up, hands you a gift (new life) beyond value and never expects you to return the favor. You can’t.
Christians must learn the art of receiving. It’s the only posture that makes room for Jesus.
Angel Tree families are the ones who see grace more clearly than anyone. Those with very little must learn to receive, otherwise their children wake up Christmas morning without presents. We would be wise to associate with some of these families. Our giving might open the door to Grace, and we might catch a glimpse.
What if Christians stopped living in fear and let down the floodgates of grace? What if we stopped placing conditions around it and started looking for God in our suffering and trials? Maybe a generation of Christians would experience Jesus rather than acquire knowledge of Him. And maybe the result would be hearts drowning in passion.
Beware. If we start advocating for a “no holds barred” grace, many will label us. Freedom is the institutionalized church’s enemy. It can’t thrive where freedom lives. We must be prepared for name-calling and exclusion. But, in the process, we might spark a revival. I’ll take the labels, name calling and exclusion if I also get revival. How about you?
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!