Now, there’s an interesting word. Believers toss it out all the time in all sorts of situations. But, ask an unbeliever what grace is and she might say something like, “It’s what religious people say before they eat.” Makes you wonder what “non-religious” people do. Maybe they just say, “Dig in!” or “Bon appetite!” or just “Pass the salt.”
It also makes you wonder what definition of religious they’re talking about. Religious as in anybody that worships some sort of higher being? Like maybe Hindus? Or Buddhists? What about folks that worship celebrities? Or money? I think that should count. After all, they do see those things as being higher than themselves.
I’m just saying.
Other than Christianity, however, and really other than evangelical Christianity mostly, other “religious” people don’t really have much to do with grace. Grace in the biblical sense is the thing that separates us from all the other religions. We only get a shot at eternal life because of God’s grace. The gift of salvation for those who believe is the result of this grace. If you don’t accept the grace, all that’s left to you is your own works – your own ability to do…something. I don’t know what, but whatever it is you think you need, want, or can do to try to earn your place in heaven. You know, the works that don’t work because it’s only by grace that we have been saved, not by works. Because seriously, what can I possibly do that's great enough to merit eternal life? Even if I did come up with something, why should I get bragging rights? (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Being the oh, so not higher beings that we are, we have this propensity to mess everything up though, don’t we? Rather than accepting the grace and living in it as we should, we toss in our gold-plated monkey wrenches and mess it all up.
We start with doubt. Just a little doubt goes a long way. Kind of like Peter, who was told by Christ to step out of the boat and walk on the water. Things started out okay, but Peter had this little doubt and began believing in the power of the waves more than the power of the One who said, “Come.” And so we believe in the power of our situations more than the power of the One who put us there.
Then we fall into despair. We become the Merry Martyrs and put ourselves into an emotional state that God never intended for us. Because we trust our emotions more than we trust our Creator.
Then we become undisciplined in our habits and our routines. We let things go; our appearance, our responsibilities, our walk with the Lord. Because we put more faith in what we want to do than in what He wants us to do.
Then we get really good at making all sorts of excuses. We beg off, we shun, we reject, we avoid… We are masters of the art of excuse-making, aren’t we? I totally impress myself with how superbly creative I can be in the excuse-making department. I’m so good at it, I’m surprise someone doesn’t pay me to write a book, “The Best Excuses for Any Situation You Want to Get Out Of.” It would make the NY Times Bestseller list in a heartbeat.
Lastly and probably most impressive of all, we give ourselves permission to blame. Doesn’t matter who we blame. God is a good target. Family members work. Friends, neighbors, strangers, the dog…we’re pretty random and not all that selective sometimes. Whoever happens to be handy at the time will do just nicely. Because, after all, we can’t possibly be expected to be held responsible for the lack of grace with which we live our lives. Can we?
Instead, of entering into such a messed up cycle, we could actually live in the grace Christ extends to us through His death. Oh, we accept the salvation part of it okay, but do we really live out the grace part? Here’s what it looks like:
--We resist all thoughts that speak against the character and goodness of God. That includes hurtful thoughts about ourselves or others. We all are, after all, image bearers of God. If Jesus wouldn’t think it about us, should we think it about ourselves? (2 Corinthians 10:5)
--We destroy that place of self-pity and self-indulgence. While you’re at it, go ahead and destroy all the self stuff; self-service, self-esteem, self-righteousness…everything except self-control. That one’s okay. (2 Corinthians 10:4)
--We truly be crucified in Christ. This life you live may not be the life you planned, but it’s exactly where God has you at exactly the time He has you there. Can you live it for the One who suffered and died for you? (Galatians 2:20)
Them’s fighting words!
To live in Christ is to die to self. How different this world would be if everyone just stopped thinking about themselves all the time. Their feelings, their opinions, how smart or thin or fat or sick or hurt or beautiful or talented or depressed or angry or whatever they are. Can we actively and audibly refuse to let those things block the grace Christ extends to us? The whole “What about me?” thing has us so bound and enslaved that we lose sight of God’s grace altogether.
Can we allow ourselves to have the grace to forget about ourselves and let Christ live in us and through us in the little everyday things? What about in the big things? Can we accept that we are who we are, where we are, in our present situation and allow His grace to flow in and through us?
Before each meal and in every moment in between, and with the power of the Holy Spirit at our disposal, I believe we can indeed live in His grace!