I am not a Bible theologian, so today’s blog is pushing me way out on the plank over the pitching seas of exegetical danger, so I apologize for offending those with seminary degrees and those who are infinitely better qualified to write on this subject. As a friend stated in regard to another situation, I am indeed hanging heavy weights on thin threads.
I believe that one of the most difficult concepts to portray in writing or speaking is the grace that God gives to us not only at our salvation, but every day of a believer’s life. People who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ will have no idea what you are talking about.
There is a good reason for this challenge. Since our sinful nature desires to put us in charge of our own lives, our own success, our own good works, we are “bent” to take control of our own salvation and our lives. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter two, verses eight and nine, we read about an arrow right through the heart of that desire, “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.”
So then, we as recipients of God’s grace decide to communicate about that to others and we sit down to write our book or sermon or script. We try to put grace into words so that it would make logical sense to someone else.
Then it hits you.
You are immediately reminded how costly this “free” gift actually was. You’re speechless. Your fingers stop working on the keyboard. You stand up and walk around the room, wipe a tear from your eye and say a prayer of thanks to the God who loved you so much that he sent his Son to die in your place, as if to say, “And by the way, here is a special gift for you…eternal life, my Son paid for it”.
How am I supposed to put that into a story without sounding downright unbelievable? After all, we work for things in this life.
Courage, sacrifice, stamina, love, faithfulness…great stories are built around these things, but God’ grace is a tough one because it doesn’t depend on us. We take no credit for it.
It would be a lot easier to write without grace being involved at all. It is much simpler to explain something we can control. People work hard, get better and better, working their way up the salvation “ladder”, courageously helping others and generally being a wonderful person. When they have done enough good things, have enough good-deed points, the climax of the story happens and everyone is happy and congratulated for a job well done. What a hero!
Actually, grace makes for the greatest stories. The thief on the cross to be with Jesus in paradise when just moments before he was going to hell. The relentlessly forgiving father and his prodigal son who didn’t deserve anything but was restored anyway. The Apostle Peter being allowed to say yes, he loved Jesus three times as each of his three denials from a few days earlier were wiped away one by one.
Grace is a great ingredient. It was paid for by someone else and it’s free. Use plenty of it in your recipe.