There is a song out by Matthew West entitled, “Grace Wins.”
The words are powerful, the concept beautiful, here are the lyrics from part of the song:
“For the Prodigal son
For the Woman at the well
For the blind men and the beggar
For always and forever
For the lost out on the street
For the worst part of you and me
For the thief on the cross
For the world that is lost
There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But i’m living proof
Grace wins every time”
As a person who writes and speaks, i am keenly aware of how important it is to define the words we use.
Traditional definition of GRACE – the free and unmerited favor of God.
Dallas Willard – “GRACE is not opposed to effort, but to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace is not just about forgiveness — if we had never sinned we would still need grace! GRACE is God acting in our life to do what we cannot do on our own. Grace is what we live by, and the human system won’t work without it.”
When God chose to act on our behalf, in the person of Jesus, He did what we could not do. That grace existed because of the very nature of our God, [who He is] and it shapes our relationship with God. We can not have a relationship with God apart from the GRACE of God in Jesus.
GRACE is God’s action in our lives. GRACE is not a once and done, rather it is a consistent living into. Relationships are constantly changing, either growing together or growing apart. God’s grace/action in our lives is designed to draw us closer in our relationship with God. When we refuse to accept this grace/action and choose our own will/way, we grow apart-the relationship suffers. This growing apart does not lessen God’s grace/action/love for us, God is not like us, God is not fickle. GRACE wins every time.
Why is this so important? Why spend five paragraphs defining GRACE? Because I believe that the lack of living into God’s action/grace/relationship is the single largest reason the light that disciples are supposed to shine in the world has dimmed.
The Christian church has become a people who love their position/opinion/beliefs/politics more than we love other people and more than we love Jesus. We are so convinced that our position is right that we love that supposed “rightness” more than we love the person who has a different position. When this happens, we have missed the point of God’s action/GRACE in our lives. To do this is to miss the mark that Jesus has called us to as disciples.
Think about Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector. Two people that couldn’t have been more politically/socially/economically different. For Simon the Zealot, he loved a free Israel so much that he was willing to kill Romans to accomplish that freedom. For Matthew the Tax collector, he loved money so much he was willing to be branded a traitor and nationally despised. And Jesus called them both to be His disciples. Can you just imagine Simon sitting at the camp fire as Matthew joins the group for the first time, and Jesus says, “Hey, Matthew, I think there is an open seat next to Simon.”
Plug what ever opposing “stances” you want into the equation. The result is the same. Pro-life vs. Pro-choice. Homosexual vs. Not. It doesn’t matter. Both sides love their position more than they love the people on the other side. This is where God’s GRACE/action in our lives comes to play. Simon and Matthew loved their positions, and had given their lives over to their cause/ideology. Yet, having encountered God’s GRACE in Jesus, both chose not to love their position, but to let go and to love Jesus more. GRACE wins every time. Their encounter of God’s grace in the person of Jesus led them to love him more than they loved their position. And because they loved Him more than their position, they were willing to obey when Jesus commanded them to love each other!
Grace cannot be experienced apart from a relationship. When we choose to define people by their stance, rather than a person whom Jesus loves, we miss the point of the Gospel. Many churches are going the legislation route. Legislation will not bring about healing, only relationships built on the person of Jesus can do that. In Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…. see Galatians 3:26-29. A disciple of Jesus will always choose to build a relationship with another person because of the relationship the disciple has with Jesus. The encounter of GRACE/God’s action in their lives compels the disciple to seek the relationship with the other person not in spite of their ‘stance’ but because of who Jesus is.
This is the problem that the broader church faces: people want to love their position or their building or their theological stance more than they love their neighbor. We fail to love others because we fail to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This dims our light/witness to the world. Our light is hidden under the basket/bushel of our position. The church has learned the lesson of the world all too well, that people are disposable. It’s OK to write off your brother; it’s OK to dismiss someone, if they don’t agree with your perspective/stance.
Don’t hear what I am not saying. I am all for Biblical authority, I am all for conservative values. But, above all, I am for Jesus. And Jesus commands me to build relationships with other people out of my love for Him based upon His love for me. I need God’s grace to do this. In the end, GRACE wins every time.