That was a surprise! Yesterday’s post – “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless” – went a little bit viral. I haven’t had that level of response to my blog in a long time. Goes to show, I guess, that sometimes people really do come here for the writing more than the photographs!
So today I want to piggyback on that just a little, and turn our attention to the insightful scripture my men’s group talked about Wednesday evening. Here are a couple of key verses from Galatians 2:
We know that a person isn’t made righteous by the works of the Law but rather through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ… (v. 16a)
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing (verse 21).
We talked – among other things – about how we respond to grace on a personal level. It’s one thing to have an intellectual or a theological understanding, but something else to actually live as if we are forgiven, free, and completely accepted by God. So I asked the guys to talk about their experience; I asked if the needle moves more toward accepting God’s grace or if it moves more in the direction of obligation toward the law?
One friend said grace is absolutely there, an indisputable fact in his life. Sometimes he feels like he needs it a little more than others. Another man said it’s like God’s grace is banked, accessible and limitless. Another voice said it’s good to know grace is not apportioned out according to merit.
“Another way to parse the question,” my friend Paul said, “is, ‘Does grace drive our behavior? Or, does (do we believe) our behavior determines what grace we get?'” He pointed out that when he’s getting it right it is the former; but it is so easy to slip into the other message, and of course that message is, as the Apostle Paul (not my friend, although I think we’d enjoy some great conversations) pointed out in Galatians 1, “really no gospel at all”.
- Essentially, the question both Pauls are asking is the following. “Grace: do we earn it or do we own it?”
I ended up stumbling into the following analogy; it’s a little clunky but I think it works:
Living here in the United States I feel confident and secure in my freedom; I am, in a sense, graced to be here. At the same time I have always felt an obligation (well, not so much an obligation as an “I’d be dumb to pass this up” opportunity), felt the imperative to do something useful and productive with this gift. Understanding God’s grace is similar: I know I did nothing to earn it, yet the gift comes loaded with this deeply rooted understanding that I will have left something pretty wonderful unwrapped if I don’t live into it.
God’s grace – offered through Jesus Christ – is something beyond “pretty wonderful”. So my question for myself, and for all of us, is this: “Why leave it unwrapped?” and, “What are we going to do with it?”
Grace and more grace – DEREK
Here is an (experimental) video version if you want this in a different format: