Minimizing Grace

I recently saw a post on Facebook in which the writer identified himself as Christian and Gay. I was saddened by the brutal comments which in essence claimed inconsistency in those labels. Some folks could use a refresher course on identifying as His by our love and being without sin before casting stones. They are minimizing grace.

Lots of sins are identified in scripture. Jesus summarized it positively: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Anything else is sin. Loving is a full-time job leaving us little time for sin or judgment. 

Sin is failing to mirror the perfection of Jesus.  As I’ve aged, I discovered things I never considered sin, really are. My sadness with the post arises from my experience of grace. Others may have come to this point in their spiritual lives by different paths. This is mine.

Grace convicts. At some point, I became convicted that I was a sinner in need of salvation. My first contact with grace. The encounter with the reality of my depravity is fundamental to what comes next.

Grace saves. God provided an opportunity to respond to his loving offer of salvation. Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound. His love motivated me to respond in love. He put into my life folks whose capacity for love was unnatural and attractive. I had to have what they did. 

Grace renews. Grace was there when I became a new creature. I experienced a real change, not perfection, but a new direction, a new motivation, a new model, Jesus and a new love for Him and his creation.

Grace empowers. In my experience, God didn’t hit me with every way in which I fail to model Christ all at once. A complete picture of my total depravity would have killed all hope. Over these many years, He has pointed out my shortfalls and has encouraged and more importantly, empowered me to correct them. At every stage there have been sins I have overcome, sins I struggle with, and sins I’m not even aware of. I have learned to love better, but far from perfectly.

Grace Blesses. Grace is unmerited favor. It means gifts I don’t deserve. As his child, not only am I blessed with forgiveness. He gives me eyes to see the beauty of the world.  He graciously guides wonderful loving and loveable people into my life. He provides opportunities to serve so that I might learn the blessing and honor of mission.  He turns challenges into opportunities.He heals me when others die. He opens doors when there seems no way. He provides when provision seems impossible. His presence becomes more real and more precious as I turn to Him and learn of Him. There is always more with Jesus.

Grace keeps forgiving. I believe this process will continue until I am called home. I will never be a mirror of Jesus and his great love, at least not in this life.  As I approach 70 years, I still fall woefully short of my Jesus. For some sins, I make excuse or ignore. For others, the Lord hasn’t shown them to me, knowing I am not ready. Some folks are still hard to love. Often I am…hard to love.

Sometimes my eyes slip from Him to circumstances. Sometimes I measure my blessings and conclude I am more deserving than others rather than more blessed. I measure my sins on a scale of relativity instead of focusing on Him as the model. 

Grace loves. I don’t have the time or energy or right to cast stones at others whose sins are different or more visible or more unacceptable. I often hear of  Romans Chapter 1 which lists the many ways we can fall short. I don’t get reminded of Chapter 2: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” The purpose of the Romans 1 list is self-examination, not cross-examination.

Sins may seem very different in terms of their nature, severity or harmfulness. In fact, in God’s eyes, they are the “same things,” falling short of our model. I plan to respond to God’s grace, by doing a better job of loving God and others. To do that I need to know Him and others better. 

I hope to focus on love rather than stones, my sins and not the sins of others, my blessings instead of others’ challenges. I hope to live a life of grace, maximizing the fullness of the favor of God.

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