Hard Grace

12 “Son of man, give your people this message: The righteous behavior of righteous people will not save them if they turn to sin, nor will the wicked behavior of wicked people destroy them if they repent and turn from their sins. 

Ezekiel 33:12 NLT

The prophet Ezekiel was tasked with the unenviable task of forecasting Israel’s end at the hand of the Babylonians.  He does this courageously but at the risk of creating a sense of hopelessness, he communicates God’s heart towards the repentant.  He creates a vision of a re-established existence where God dwells with his people once again.

Growing up in the Caribbean, we used the word “grace” in a temporal way.  It usually communicated an extension of time for repayment.  The recipient was usually in arears (either monetarily or otherwise materially) and the extension was merited based on a demonstrated pattern of past consistency.  It was not free and unlimited.  There usually came a point where grace was no longer extended and the consequence immediate.

The concept of boundless grace is hard to accept because western ways of thinking promote meritocracy and value that is earned.  As the saying goes, “nothing is free.”  Kingdom living requires balancing the tension between the divine truth of undeserved favor and the earthly reality of value by personal payment.  Many times, the boundary between the two diffuses.  Grace toward and from us suffers.  We tend towards remitting or demanding payment.

I once knew a man who came to the end of himself and decided to invite Christ into his life.  The initial years of this new relationship were filled with growth and change.  Many things about him changed.  Some stayed the same.  He then experienced a significant hurt and decided to turn away from his relationship with Jesus.  He pursued the world and all it had to offer.  He eventually came, once again, to the end of himself.  He thought that there was no way back to the freedom he once enjoyed in Christ.  He was overjoyed to find that God’s forgiveness and acceptance were limitless.  God’s grace was different to that which he had known as a child.  That man was me.

Life is not an equation that balances right with wrong. It is more of an inequality between God’s righteousness and ours. God’s goodness far outweighs any good that we have done or will ever do, hence the reason why his favor toward us is called grace. Sometimes, this truth escapes us as we allow the sinful shadow of our past to overwhelm our present.

Being a follower of Christ is not about righting the wrongs of our personal past. As we take responsibility for these wrongs, the journey becomes about accepting Christ's payment for those wrongs. As we make amends, we put this action into practice. We develop a freedom to stop defending our “good” and grow in maturing through the bad for which Jesus paid the ultimate price.

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