i recently grabbed dinner with my brother. pizza. at a very eclectic pizza place in my hometown. where the menu is just as eccentric as the town it resides in. the pizza is prepared in an open kitchen, so you can watch it tossed in the air, spinning and stretching. then placed in an open brick oven. flames ‘kissing’ the crust until the staff say it has had enough.
my brother had never been there before, so we took a seat by the window and perused the menu. choosing water over soda, he drank deep as we talked. movies, mostly. a shared interest in movies can keep us talking for hours. this newest release leads us to a classic comedy, through the common thread of an actor or actress. and we laugh loudly as we recall quotes that weren’t nearly as funny the first time through.
and it was after our pizza had arrived that i shared with him something i had been turning over and over in my mind for the past week or so. i had been thinking about the forgiveness that i have been given. i was thinking about His grace, and how much it has covered over in my life. and i was thinking about what we’re supposed to do with that.
my brother and i don’t talk about God, or religion or Christianity. we just don’t. my brother likes cars. and movies. so we talk movies. but this time, for some reason, i felt inclined to ask him for his thoughts on the subject. so i did.
a non-pastor response
“so i’ve been thinking a lot about God’s grace lately,” i mentioned over a mouthful of fresh-from-the-oven pizza.
“yah?” he responded, showing signs of half interest. so i continued.
“yeah, i guess i’ve just been thinking about the fact that He didn’t have to forgive me for all the times i’ve messed up, but He did anyways. i’ve been thinking about the fact that His Son gave His life so that the Father could give me grace, and how unimaginably great a gift that is. and i can’t help but wonder, what am i supposed to do with that?”
i let my words linger in the air a few moments before asking, “what do you think?”
he took another bite of his pizza and stared out the window toward the dark street outside, with only the lights of storefronts and headlights standing out from the darkness of a mid-winter’s evening. i could tell he was thinking about my question, gathering his thoughts before he spoke.
and, after finishing his thought, he asked, “you ever ask your pastor about that?”
and i was so let down. i was so hopeful to hear a pure, unadulterated, man-on-the-street response. instead, all if found was someone wanting to hand the job off to “the professionals.” and i let the question pass into the darkness of the night as we finished our pizza.
“i checked out that movie trailer you told me about,” i said. the conversation picking right back up where we had left off.
in a coffee shop
my best friend and i get together on friday mornings, before work. starting the end of the week in a coffee shop to catch up, to dig into His word and to pray for each other. in a coffee shop, though not over coffee. i take my conversation with hot tea, he always with orange juice.
and we were recently talking about the topic of grace and forgiveness. and, feeling overwhelmed by the idea of such a gift, i explained how i thought it completely unlike anything else we have ever received or ever will receive.
“it’s kind of like you owing me a debt,” i began. “an incredibly large debt, the kind you’re not likely to be able to pay back any time soon. and, because of how significant that debt is, we can’t hang out until it’s paid. but because i want to hang out with you, because i want to be with you once again, i pay that debt for you. that’s what God’s grace is like.”
and we both agreed that Christianity’s response toward such a gift is rarely what it should be. i know mine almost always falls short of what He deserves.
like spoiled children
we were recently at some friends’ of ours house. my wife and her talking in the living room, he and I choosing the kitchen. the conversation as different as our locations in the house. he and i talking about our common interest in the things of the faith, while they talked about family and life. it’s nice when everyone wins.
and, during part of this conversation, he made a point about our lives as those who believe in Him, and what He has done for us. he talked about how different groups act, and live this out. and, while i am not usually a fan of making sweeping statements with such a large brush, he mentioned one particular religion, and commented on how they’re some of the nicest people he knew.
“you compare that to Christians, and we’re so different. we’re so complacent,” he said.
i mentioned that i thought it was because we don’t have to do anything to earn it. that His grace, His love is just a gift He gives us. he agreed.
“that’s it. we’re like spoiled kids whose parents give to them, but not because they’ve been good, or because they deserve it,” he said. “so we’re ungrateful. we become complacent.”
i agreed, knowing he had just described many, many Christians i know. including myself, much of the time.
the response He’s looking for
but what is that supposed to be? what is our response to grace supposed to look like?
and i think that question is so very difficult to answer because we have nothing to compare it to. we don’t regularly experience people giving their lives to make right our wrongs. if i have a debt, i am typically left to pay for it. but, even in the rare instance i need someone else’s help, it’s never with their life. except this one time. expect in this one instance.
and that’s what makes grace so incredible to me. that a perfect life, The perfect life, was given once and for all, for all the times i fall. for each time i choose my own way over His. every time, it is His perfect blood that was shed, in my place. His perfect life, laid down for mine. because of mine. and i can’t help but think, “so what does that mean for my life?”
lives laid down
what we find, when we look at Jesus’ life, is that He was constantly humbling Himself to serve others.
He who, as we’re told, was before all creation, came down and took upon human flesh, who was born. as a baby. The Miracle entering our world, being written into our story, through the miracle of birth.
and, time after time, we see Him as an adult, going against tradition to show His love. we see Him taking a wash basin and bathing His disciples’ feet. feet covered in dirt and sweat and blood and animal feces… the King of Kings, volunteering for a job reserved for the lowliest of slaves. and how does He finish? by telling this group of men, “as I have done for you, go and do likewise.”
and all of this, of course, is a foreshadow of the events to come. He is preparing these men for when He will ultimately humble Himself by giving His life for the purpose of grace. by surrendering His own life. by allowing His flesh to be bruised, beaten, torn, punctured and crucified. for the purpose of grace. and, in so doing, He is telling these men (and through them, us a well), “you better not love your life more than you love Me.”
and they saw that. and they lived like it. their lives lived out for the purpose of sharing Him.
more than nice people
and, being a constant, more constant than anything we know, i think He wants the same thing today. people who aren’t just nice, but who love Him more than they love their very life. people who thirst for Him with an unquenchable thirst. people who know they will find Him when they surrender their lives for His glory. and i think that’s what we’re supposed to do with grace. i think we’re supposed to fall deeply in love with it. i think we’re supposed to drink it in until we’re drunk, and our senses are overwhelmed by the depth of it. to the point where we simply cannot help but living, intentionally, to show others His grace.
for those who have heard it said so many times that it’s simply lost its meaning. to those who never felt as though it could actually apply to them. i pray that His love, grace and mercy would crash through the walls around your heart, spilling into your soul, filling you to the point of overflow. i pray that you would feel the cool, healing of His living waters touch every ounce of your being as it washes through you and over you, and that you would humbly allow it to pour from you and into those around you, so that they too might experience His goodness.
we are to let His grace in, to live in it, and to allow Him to satiate us with Himself. so that His work in us does not stop with us, but reaches others. for His glory.