What would it be like to live in a world where every living person had to carry with them a list of mistakes they have made? Whether it be moral issues, spiritual misadventures, physical offenses, emotional turmoil or any other situation that someone would deem inappropriate. This could be a huge list for any one of us. What might be immoral for me, may not be for another, but you would have to carry it on your list because I find it offensive in some way. My list would be pages of discrepancies, sins, bad judgments, and offending moments.
Can you imagine a world where we had to wear our thoughts on our sleeves? Where people could see our judgments of others as we pass by them. They would know how we see ourselves, and they would never have to imagine what we thought of them. It would also mean that we would not have the opportunity to rethink our initial impression of others.
But we don’t live in that kind of world. We don’t see into people’s lives unless they allow us too, and unfortunately we sometimes (probably more often than not) take that opportunity to cast judgment on others and lower them in to a place that we have reserved for people we want nothing to do with.
At times people have done this with our lives as well.
Our walk with Christ isn’t primarily about growth for the sake of personal improvement, but receiving the basics of His death and resurrection. Even we, who follow Christ, often times find ourselves in danger of needing to shrink from our elaborate, self-involved spiritual aspirations of do more, try harder.
See, we tend toward “doing” because, well…doing is about self-progress and we like to take credit for our achievements. We’ve become a society based on measurements. But the gospel is about the foundation of what has already been done for us.
And to be blunt, we are narcissistic people. For all our striving to live the holy life, Scripture isn’t about us, or ability to achieve for God. Instead, it is about God’s work done for us in Christ. Traditional spiritual wisdom teaches us that discouragement is normal. What happens is that we seek God for selfish reasons. We get emotional highs out of religious services, or out of prayer, or any other experience we attribute to His Spirit.
Let’s face it. We Christians take the gospel for granted every day. Surely there’s something more flashy about the Christian life than beginner, baby-Christian, Sunday school stuff, right? Wrong.
The gospel is simple, profound, and glorious. It’s the stuff that changes hearts. Want to stay Jesus-focused, gospel-centered, and keep the big picture in sight? Don’t get self-absorbed in your own sin management. It’s tragic how His Word can so easily become a self-help guide.
At times in our history there have been incredible people who have questioned the systems that have been established. Systems that say you are better than me because of your income level or your childhood advantages. Systems that differentiate criminals from innocents, offenders from the offended, even sick from healthy. They have questioned the path some have outlined for raising some people to an upper levels and leaving others in subpar levels where only those who appear equal will connect with them.
They did this through grace.
These people, they moved. They are the ones that enter hospitals, prisons, back alleys, school, office buildings and everywhere in between with a message of, “our lives are equal because grace covers all.”
I see people who have lived a life, and continue to struggle, just like mine was and they are often full of anger, hatred, bitterness, vengeance, fear, doubt, and self pity. They are terrified of what the future holds fearing their pasts will not let them go.
They are unfulfilled, ungrateful, selfish and have a strong desire to be empowered but not to empower others. They just don’t know how to be grateful. Or selfless. Or empowering.
The difference is grace. Unconditional grace.
Unconditionally. That means the what doesn’t matter, but also that the who doesn’t matter. Lost, found, and everything in between–we all need grace.
Now chew on this: who is it easier to give grace to? The “lost,” or “saved” people?
Who is it easier to offer prayer to? To utter the words, “What can I pray for you about?” or “You are in my prayers.” Who is it easier to send a Bible verse to? Who is it easier to unexpectedly offer help to?
Who is it easier to say, “I forgive you” too?
For me, the answer would be is someone who’s saved. Why? Because they “get” it. Prayer, scripture, random kindness, and fellowship are just part of the same as I. The only thing for me to overcome is my laziness. To get off my butt.
Someone outside the church, on the other hand, is all kinds of complicated: Do I need to ask permission to pray or read scripture? Will they think it’s weird that I’m dropping food off? Will they drop an f-bomb if I have a Bible study? Even though my “saved” friends know I’m human and still sin, will “these” people think of me as a hypocrite trying to be something I’m not?
This conflict is a tragedy. Biased Grace
It’s the unconscious bias way we approach grace in our everyday lives. Here’s the danger: bias perpetuates itself. If one kind of person is consistently shown grace, and another person is consistently ignored, the gap between the two grows bigger. And bigger. And bigger. Until you or I am afraid to bring a plate of cookies to someone because we’re afraid they’ll think we’re weird.
It’s easy to say, ”I’m called to minister to the church” and use all your energy as such. It’s your calling, right? Well, so is this, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
So, make unconditional grace a purposeful part of your life.
Unconditional grace means tangible grace–the kind that actually causes physical change in the world around me. Around you. Around someone. The giver. The receiver. That is, after all, the model of Jesus, whose grace brings about salvation, healing, addiction, recovery, and any number of other miracles. But more often than not, I’m guilty of displays of grace that amount to simple “good” deeds. It’s entry-level stuff, far removed from the potential that God has placed in me. I wonder, do put my full potential into the 12-Step class I teach?
There is a question that tragically kills grace dead in tracks every single day.
It is the pathetic question: “What will people think?”
Sadly these 4 dirty words dictate so much of our grace giving and receiving.
What will people think if I take my cheating husband back?
What will people think if I forgive the a-hole that took advantage of me?
What will people think if I move on from my mistake and find happiness again?
What will people think if I admit I’m addicted to pain killers?
What will people think if they see me talking to “that” person?
What will people think I walk down the aisle of a church and surrender my life to God?
Those 4 dirty little words. Questions like these kill grace.
Grace does truly cover all, giving you a fresh start and a hope for better and brighter days. Grace is the one event/action/emotion/conveyed experience that can give you a new outlook on your life and towards others.
Let grace cover all that you have been, and then see who you can be.