If Grace is Real: Revealing the Character of God
When our kids were little, we noticed early on that they were unnecessarily hard on themselves.
Kids learn much more from watching their parents than they do from listening to them, so it didn’t take much thought to determine where that behavior was coming from. My wife and I have always been driven people. After getting her bachelor’s degree Magna Cum Laude, she went on to become a successful television writer in Hollywood. While working towards her graduate degree, she shared with me many times that the only acceptable grade was the “pointy one.”
I have always been the dreamer, setting the impossible task and then throwing myself at it with everything I’ve got. When thwarted over the years, my annoyance has often spilled out in inappropriate ways, such as taking my frustrations out an innocent toaster or some other inanimate object, when the one I was really angry with was myself. Once I noticed the kids channeling similar energy, I decided to try and do something in an effort to get them to lighten up. I drew a cartoon of a guy hitting himself in the head with a hammer with the caption “Put away the hammer,” and posted it prominently on our refrigerator.
I believe God’s gift of grace is evidence that God wants us to put the hammer down.
Grace has been defined as “the unmerited favor of God.” As such, it is something we can’t control – but that certainly doesn’t stop us from trying. One of the ways we try and control it is by putting limitations on it. It’s not that surprising that we would do that when judging others, because to judge others critically is essentially to withhold grace. What is surprising, however, is how readily we place limitations on God’s ability to extend grace to us. We talk negatively to ourselves, picking up the hammer time and time again – giving power in our lives to messages that are not from God.
We let our guilt or our shame blot out the light of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace. We think to ourselves, “Well sure, God would have grace for that person but the mistakes I’ve made and the sins I’ve committed are over the line.” I’ve seen this time and again as people tell us their stories when we are at work on our Music for the Soul projects. People think that God’s grace could never extend to them because they betrayed someone in adultery or because they’ve repeatedly used pornography. They think they are outside of God’s grace because they failed to stop a loved one’s suicide or because they aborted a child.
But here’s the thing. If grace is real then it covers the whole magilla.
Jesus saving act on the cross is not selective. The grace of God is not just sufficient for the sins we consider redeemable. We can’t have it both ways. God’s grace is either sufficient for all of it, or it’s not sufficient for any of it. Of course if we’re to accept that grace is real and that God has graciously extended it to us through Jesus, then we must extend it to those in our own lives. We must love as we have been loved. That means we’re going to have to extend grace to people we don’t like, people who offend us, people who with whom we disagree. Man, this Christian thing is hard isn’t it? My wife, now a Disciples of Christ pastor, ended her sermon this week by saying, “As Christians, if we are to err, let us err on the side of grace.”
That means I have to put away the hammer. That means I have to have grace for everyone. Even myself.
Originally posted 5/30/16