“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Galatians 3:3
Grace is like the guy who excuses himself from the table pretending to go the restroom. He times his strides carefully and slips the waiter his visa as they cross paths. When dinners over, we realize what has been done and the battle to compensate begins. Some students in the table exhale with a sigh of relief as they put their feather weight wallets back in their pockets. Others continue the tug o’war threatening to walk out the door leaving some bills on the table. Being a recipient of a free meal can feel a little uncomfortable at times. You wonder whether you raised up the white flag too soon. You feel somewhat vulnerable and indebted to the giver.
In a way, we’re trained to refrain from being the beneficiary. You work for what you have, and what you don’t have, you simply work harder for. Anything you possess that was not earned puts you at unease, it seems unaccounted for and not necessarily yours yet. In fact, your bases would have been covered if you took care of the tab. You wouldn’t have a care in the world. Everyone owes you and no one can say that they got the bad end of the bargain.
This is why grace is so difficult for people to receive. Before Jesus, the law gave us some kind of framework to show us whether we’re on track or not. It gave us the opportunity to cover the tab if we could afford it. The law is simply a whole lot cleaner. It’s a clear system where we are able to check off items from a list. Don’t eat this stuff… Check! Stay away from sexual immorality… Check! Get circumcised…. ouch, but Check! Grace on the other hand is pretty messy! Think about it, how is our response to grace measured? How do I calculate my rate of success? We default back to the law after entering freely by grace because it’s familiar and in our control.
Grace is about God going before us and paying the price. We can choose to leave money on the table when the tabs been covered or we can put our wallets back in our pockets and just accept the free meal. In fact we’d be better off if we just looked into our wallets before the scramble and saw for ourselves that we didn’t even have enough to pay our own share. God knows we don’t have enough and he’s kind enough to save us the embarrassment.
How many times have we thought that a good deed rectifies a bad action? How easy it is to think that our generous or righteous actions are tipping the heavenly scales. Our purity is not dependent on how little we watch inappropriate movies, nor is our righteousness determined by how many homeless people we feed. Our freedom is not warranted by our worship and God’s love for us does not increase when we become more lovable. We are pure because of his blood, righteous because God sees Jesus when he looks at us, free because Jesus conquered death and loved because we are his children. Our payment was taken care of at the cross and it only devalues and cheapens the sacrifice when we think our efforts, money or deeds can make a dent in compensating God for what he has given us.
“It was for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burden again by the yoke of slavery.”
Below is a message I preached a few weeks ago on Acts 10. My preparation for this message is the inspiration for this blog post.