Monday, June 24, 2013

Grace for Everything

This is one of those posts that had to exist.  Several days ago, the Christian Bloggers community on Google Plus reinstated the weekly blog challenge.  This week’s challenge was on the topic of “What Grace means to me.”.  That’s one that should get any of us thinking.  There were also other factors that made me want to write about this subject.

Over the weekend, there was a post by someone I read frequently, complaining about how they always got more critical comments from fellow Christians than from unbelievers, when doing what this person considered kindnesses  I don’t have exact details of what the circumstances were or what this person’s total spiritual background may be, other than that I believe them to be Christian.  So, not being omniscient, I can’t say for sure how correct or incorrect this person might be.  But there are several things relating to the conversation that are important to my own understanding of grace.

We’ve commented, before, that the comparison of grace and mercy is that grace gives us what we don’t deserve, while mercy takes away what we do deserve.  One of the interesting things is that, if we think about it, it requires grace be given in order for mercy to exist.  As sinners, we don’t deserve mercy, either.  When I think of that, I’m overwhelmed that God would care enough about us (read that as me) to give us grace and mercy.  He certainly doesn’t have to.

We pointed out, in recent posts, that there’s a circular reality to our relationship with God.  The greater we love Him, the more we trust Him.  At the same time, the more we trust Him, the more we love God.  That’s an intended situation that is part of grace and mercy from God.  Otherwise we’d be living in fear and our normal fallen reactions to the world around us, which would take our focus away from God.  And it’s grace and mercy that gives us a way to stay focused on Him, which maintains our proper thinking and reactions, which keeps our focus on God….  Another cyclical situation.  And, again, one we don’t deserve, courtesy of our fallen nature.  Which brings us to the conversation we mentioned earlier.

There’s an old saying that, when we point a finger at someone, there are several pointing back at ourselves.  It’s reality that, when there’s a conflict, it’s extremely rare that only one side contributed to the conflict.  A point brought out in Matthew 7:4-5 and Luke 6:41-42.  We can have a way of looking at someone else’s minor fault (the mote), while excusing our own major fault (the beam).  I said that I think of it as being “we”, as in the Bible.  And I was corrected on that.

It was pointed out that the Bible passages say, “you”, not “we”.  But think with me.  The thought was important enough for it to be in the New Testament twice and it was a parable told by Jesus.  He doesn’t have an Old Sin Nature, but there are none of the rest of us who don’t.  As the saying attributed to a Father Cavanaugh states, “Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I'm not Him.”.  So, Jesus’ “you” converts to “we” on our side of the equation.  It isn’t just “them” that are messed up by being sinners.  It’s all of us, at least till we are perfected in heaven.

That brings me to my thoughts on grace.  If we complain about our circumstances. murmuring like the Israelites of old, aren’t we saying:
  1. God isn’t really in control,
  2. even if He is, His grace isn’t sufficient to cover my negative test,
  3. I know better than God what I ought to have?
Need I go further?  I could very well be the worst offender.  It’s just that I keep my arguing with God between God and myself.  There are, for instance, some physical and financial issues, right now, that I’d rather not have to go through.  But, if I trust God and His love for me, then I have to also believe that these are as much for my spiritual benefit as any positive circumstances.  Maybe more so.  So, I holler at God and then repent.  And I tell everyone around me that things are, as always, awesome.  And do it with a huge smile.  Because that’s the spiritual reality.

There’s one other point about grace that might even be the most important.  Grace is not just something we receive.  As believers, we have Christ in us.  Jesus, like the Eveready bunny, is there to absorb and build up the grace that comes our way and have it ready to pass along to those around us.  Even to those whose actions or statements toward us are not to our liking.  God’s grace was never intended to end with us, as we receive it.  It was intended to elicit a grace response that radiated that grace to others.  I believe ignoring that duty and privilege is as much a sin as anything else we can do that defies God.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m becoming more and more busy whittling away at the beam in my eye.  And I keep getting less time to notice other people’s motes.  Not because I’m such a spiritual giant, but because I know that the more grace and mercy I pass along, the greater I get blessed.  Spiritual selfishness.  I know that God loves me, I love Him, and I’m getting better at trusting Him, no matter what.  Will I fail at that?  Sure.  Will I sometimes fail big time? Yup.  But I can repent and move on, because God says I can.

That’s grace and that’s mercy.  So, how are we connecting with that, today?

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