Grace has been defined by Christians for years as, “unmerited favor.” While there is truth to this, it misses some key components of what Grace really is.
This week I will look at Grace. Like so much of what we are learning, the idea that “we get to give” is hard to avoid. In this series, I want everyone to first and foremost hear, and grab a hold of, what God thinks and feels about you. To often we receive from God some life-giving thing only to deflect its full impact by saying, or thinking, “this will be helpful for so-and-so,” or “I can use this as I minister to people.” I want you through all of this series to flex your thinking muscles to see the nuances involved.
Here’s what I mean. God loves you, not because of what you will do for God. Jesus isn’t looking at you thinking about an ROI (Return on Investment). When God does some thing that demonstrates grace for us, we first have to let it settle into our lives. God likes me. That’s enough. It isn’t so I can work for God and therefore earn this grace. When we too quickly turn this thing God did into, “now I can use this to minister to others” it gives fuel to our pride and diminishes the impact of the grace in our own lives. Only after grace has gone deep into our being as nothing more or less than God’s emotion of “like” for us can we have grace for others. The nuance is that yes, we do get to give, but we have to fully “get” first in order to “give” in a way that is authentic and isn’t trying to earn it (which is usually selfishly motivated).
We have to be careful to allow the full impact of God’s grace for us to transform us. Many people are uncomfortable when someone says, “I like you.” We aren’t accustomed to hearing this, so we awkwardly deflect it. At the same time, we feel incredibly good at hearing someone likes us. The internal conflict is uncomfortable. But if we let God’s emotion of like for us sink in, we find peace and joy rising up in us. This is where transformation happens. It is also how we receive what we need from God, so that when we interact with other people, we aren’t trying to get something from them.
When Jesus began His public ministry, He was baptized in the Jordan by John. Coming up from the water, God said, “This is My Son in Whom I am well pleased.” Out of the fullness from God, Jesus ministered to people. He didn’t need anything from anyone, so could interact with anyone in a truly loving way. In the same way in John 13 we read that “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet…”
When we have received all that we need from God, we are free to love and serve people, because we are no longer trying to get something from them. Loving and serving people doesn’t come out of earning love and grace, but out of love and grace freely given and completely received.