It’s perhaps the most confusing and misunderstood topic in Christianity. What is this thing that we call “grace”?
We are told it is a gift.
That it cannot be earned or worked for, no matter how much we try.
It is simply what it is.
In a world where many fight or cry for “justice” for wrongs committed, grace creates a new dialogue of relationship and community.
This is especially evident in regards to understanding God’s compassion, and Christ’s love for us.
So where do we start?
We start where we want to end.
We have to understand what love really is. If we don’t understand the depth of God’s love, then we cannot truly anchor ourselves to a real all-encompassing love; a love that surpasses the fantasies of Hollywood and romantic desires.
When we want to best understand the depth of this love, we must look to Christ, His ministry, His suffering and death, and resurrection.
His ministry can be summarized as such; identity with His father, compassion for His people, rebuke and correction to sinners, training and instruction for the glory of His kingdom, and passion for the completion of the Trinity’s work into eternity.
Many Christians get into trouble with the idea of grace, falling into the spectrum of thinking between Cheap Grace and Self-Righteousness.
What is Cheap Grace?
Minister and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the first to use the phrase “cheap grace” in his book The Cost of Discipleship. He summed it up this way, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves…the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship.”
It is similar to saying, “It’s not a big deal if I do this (particular sin), even though I know I shouldn’t, because I know Jesus loves me”.
Jesus does love you, but when we don’t grasp the depth of that love, it becomes meaningless.
When faced with the temptation of cheap grace, ask yourself…
What am I running to? What/Who am I running from? Read Jude 1:24
The other end of this spectrum is “Self-Righteousness”.
Jonah is well known for the cute little Sunday-school story about getting swallowed by a fish.
However, if you read Jonah, you find he is quite frankly one of the most undesirably self-righteous people of his day.
After begrudgingly making it to Nineveh to tell the people that they will be destroyed if they do not repent, Jonah goes to a hill outside the city expecting to watch God “rain fire” on the “heathen.” However, when the city does repent, nothing happens, and he sees God’s mercy in action. He becomes upset. Jonah basically says, “God, why aren’t you destroying those sinners? They aren’t holy like me, yet you let them live.” God then shows Jonah who really is in charge of the whole situation… Read Jonah 4.
Jonah’s issue is one of spiritual vanity. The mentality, “I do this and don’t do this, so that makes me righteous, and that’s why God loves me.” It must be noted that Jesus spoke to two major groups on this Earth: sinners and the highly religious; each with their own mantra, “I don’t need God” or “I am God,” and each living in rebellion. Cheap grace and Self-righteousness are the same thing, because both try to take God out of the picture.
Cheap grace and Self-righteousness are the same thing, because both try to take God out of the picture.
When we say we want to “start where we end”, this comes from Jesus himself.
He says in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”
Grace is not a concept, it is a person. The process of grace shows what has been done in order to create passion for what will come. Reflect back on Christ’s ministry. It is through this lens that we see what real grace is. It is not about us but rather it is the reflection of an anchor sinking depth of love. Grace is mercy so that we may realize who we truly are and thus becomes the fuel that drives us towards the source: Jesus Christ.