One of the most important fundamental pillars of the Christian faith is also one of the least understood and practised. Without grace everything we have received from God would not exist. Without grace the race of man would have been destroyed long ago. Without grace we would not have the cross of Christ, the promise of salvation and eternal life. Our God had every right to destroy the race of man and start over again. He had every right to punish us for our disobedience and rebellion. He had every right to do this according to his purpose of creation.
We seem to forget this. We seem to forget what we are or were compared to the holiness of God. We forget that we were perfectly made and capable of obeying God but chose disobedience instead. We are so lost in that disobedience that we think it is the normal state of being. After all, no one is perfect. But we were made perfect and we chose imperfection. If we want to understand just how far we have fallen from God's holiness we only need to look at the Ten Commandments. This is a reflection of God's holiness and our inability to live up to it.
Yet, instead of choosing to give us what we deserve, our Father chose to give us grace. It is who he is and it comes from his love. Jesus is not the only example of this grace. Read the Old Testament carefully and you will see countless times that God did not use his right to bring justice but instead showed grace. Look at yourself carefully in the mirror right now and be honest about what you see. How many times will you break God's perfect law today?
Therein lies the beauty of God's grace as we wake up to the new reality that we no longer live under the perfection and punishment of the law:
"For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)
We are no longer under the supervision of the law because we are not yet made perfect so we live in an age of grace where the sincere of heart are forgiven their failings. It is an incredible gift that God has shown us through his son Jesus Christ and it should be the source of peace we have as we face every new day. The author of Lamentations encouraged himself with this reality of God's grace:
"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)
This is what we receive from God every single day of our life after having received Jesus Christ as Saviour. He knows our faults, imperfections and sins, yet when we come to him as his children every day, he extends that grace and forgiveness is given without question. This is what we receive but what do we give out?
Jesus told us that we have freely received so we must freely give. What we receive from God we have been intended to share with everyone we encounter. We are to take on the character of Jesus, transformed by the Holy Spirit, and part of this character is the fundamental element of grace. As we have received it we become it. We are a people of grace who should have the same attitude toward others as God has toward us. This is who we are!
But is it who we are?
Are we a people who treat others as they sometimes deserve, according to our rights? Or do we love those who do not love us? Are we kind to those who are not kind to us? Are we faithful to friends and family who are unfaithful to us? More than likely we do what Jesus criticized us for doing. Do we only love those who love us and are kind to those who are kind to us? Do we have people over for supper because they had us first? Are we showing kindness to people or are we simply returning a favour? Do we consider grace to be even more important than all of our rights? God had the right to destroy but he decided instead to follow a path of grace and for those who receive it he expects us to follow that same path.
Grace is not something we simply receive; it is the way we live.