I became completely unhinged in worship today. Hearing lyrics that spoke of God’s unrelenting and never-ending love for me, where like a shepherd, He would leave 99 lambs to look for me, rendered me a heaving, hot mess.
Why? So often I like many, are unaware of just how truly loved we are. We feel like we’ve strayed too far, we’re not good enough, and we haven’t done anything to warrant such love.
Truth be told, we can’t earn it. It’s impossible.
Think of the last time a friend or a family member gave you a gift, complete with ribbons and bow. Did you ask, “How much do I owe you?” Of course not. It was a gift. You don’t earn gifts, you simply receive them.
It’s the same with God’s grace.
By definition, grace is “ unmerited favor of God towards man”. Unmerited implies that it is undeserving, it’s not something you can work for. But that doesn’t stop us from trying, does it? Despite the head knowledge that we couldn’t possibly repay a debt that was paid with blood, we strive to make ourselves worthy of that grace. Serving in the church, putting cash in the collection plate, and singing enthusiastically with our arms raised during worship at the front of the church. None of this matters if we do it from a place of performance. We’re just noise and busyness, like cheap costume jewellery to accessorize an outfit that God says is already made perfect in Him.
“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.” (Eph. 2:8-9 NLT)
I think what makes it hard for many of us to receive and walk in grace, is that it’s attached to love. Oftentimes, our picture of the kind of love from God is tainted with experiences we’ve had with our earthly fathers. If abuse, distance, or abandonment have been part of our childhood, it makes it difficult to imagine that our heavenly Father could be any different. Once bitten, twice shy, as the saying goes.
It also takes some doing to get beyond the thought process that grace is transactional, that we have to do/be something good before we can freely receive. We look at our spiritual bank account and see that we’re way overdrawn. If God really knew who I am/what I’ve done, He’d never forgive me, we think. Spoil alert: He knows and He already has. There is nothing you can do to make Him love you more, and nothing you have done that can make Him love you less. He just does. It’s Who He is. It’s not a carte blanche to behave anyway you want, but being intimately acquainted with His love and grace makes you want to live in a way that shows your gratitude.
While God’s grace is freely given to all who believe in Him, there is an expectation that we would see it as a template for how He expects us to treat others. He wants us to imitate Him by extending the same gift of grace and mercy to others as we have received. I have been forgiven of every shameful, thoughtless and hurtful thing I’ve ever done, but I can be so quick to judge another for doing the very same things. We can try to deny it, but I think we have more in common with the Pharisees of the bible than we’d probably like to admit. Like the woman caught in adultery, the Pharisees were ready to stone her because she had broken the Mosaic law, but Jesus comes on the scene and basically says, “Sure, go for it. Whichever one of you can say that you haven’t done anything wrong, feel free to fire the first rock at her.” (my paraphrasing, of course) I think we all know how that story ended.
We love that God’s grace saved us, but we want to choose who else gets in on the action. We compare our sins to other’s and decide that their’s are worse than ours; we want to determine who deserves to be forgiven and who, punished. Don’t look shocked–I know I’m not alone in this. We assign ourselves as the judge, jury, and hangman every time we share our opinion well behind the protective shield of social media. Busted.
I don’t want to live in the law of the Old Testament, because quite frankly, I’d probably be busted before my feet even hit the floor in the morning. That’s why I’m so grateful for the cross and the grace that came with it. While it’s a daily choice, and sometimes a daily challenge, choosing grace brings freedom. When I sit in that secret place with Jesus laying my shortcomings and failures before Him, I am not afraid. I don’t see a Judge with a gavel in His hand ready to pronounce a guilty verdict; I don’t fall for that lie any longer. No longer bound by rules that I couldn’t possibly keep, but justified through faith, I can confidently come before the throne room and be declared innocent. This is grace.
Yes and amen.