We humans, especially Christian humans, are strange beings. We always seem to find a way to make life more complicated than we need it to be. The instructions on how to get saved is a fairly simple process:
- You believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior.
- You accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
- You agree to follow Jesus as your Lord a Savior.
Done. Our past sins are gone and our future sins are taken care of. We no longer need to live under “the law.” It’s true freedom.
“The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” —Romans 5:20-21
And yet, many Christians find ways to complicate this process. We create new rules to live by. We create lists of things we “can do” and things that we “can’t do.” We start deciding which movies, music and books that we can partake in and which ones we can’t. This is all good and fine for our own personal walk, but we rarely leave it at that.
We Christians tend to make rules and assume that all Christians live by the same rules. (Example: One decides that “R” rated movies are bad for them. Then, they decide that “R” rated movies must be bad for all “true” Christians.) When we discover that not everyone is on the same page, we get disappointed and start judging others.
Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it pretty clear that we did not earn our salvation: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
God actually saved us from all the “shoulds” and “should nots,” but we end up going through the motions anyway. Some of us, without really meaning to, start to think more highly of ourselves than we should. We forget that we all sin. We begin to see the faults in others without recognizing our own.
Romans 12:3 actually gives a warning to Christians regarding this problem: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
The Gift of Grace
In Philip Yancey’s great book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? he says, “Like fine wine poured into a jug of water, Jesus’ wondrous message of grace get diluted in the vessel of the church…Grace is Christianity’s best gift to the world, a spiritual nova in our midst exerting a force stronger than vengeance, stronger than racism, stronger than hate. Sadly, to a world desperate for this grace the church sometimes presents one more form of ungrace.”
Grace as an Excuse for Bad Behavior
Perhaps what is worse is when we go the opposite direction and revel in the grace given to us so that we no longer care what we do or how our actions will affect others. I think that is a case of taking advantage of the Savior’s offer (a.k.a. fire insurance) but not serving Jesus as our Lord. One might say hurtful things to others and think, “Oh, well. That’s just the way I am. That’s the way God made me.” Or we find excuses for our bad behavior, like, “God just wants me to be happy and I’m not happy with my marriage, so He must be telling me to get a divorce.”
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” —Romans 6:1-4
Do Unto Others…
What does that “new life” look like? Is it a one-time only thing or can it be organic? How about that “daily bread” spoken about in the Bible? I know for myself, I’m a few slices low of a whole loaf. I think it all comes down to this: as grace has been given to us, we need to show grace to others. You can’t earn grace, but it will cost you something when you give it. Grace is a gift that you don’t deserve.
Are there any times that God has shown you grace and inspired you to do the same for others?