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Few words can stir the hearts, minds, and spirits of most of us like the word, grace. Words fail us when we seek to describe it, but still we try. Most of us can easily recite the definition we learned at some point in our lives: God’s riches at Christ’s expense.
For all of the incredible riches and beauty of grace, we so often resist it. We resist it before we first receive it, but it doesn’t stop there. We resist not only being saved by grace, but also living by grace.
There is a verse by an unknown author that gives us a solid glimpse of the dilemma that swirls inside of us.
Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd:
There’s one of us that’s humble, one that’s proud,
There’s one that’s broken-hearted for his sins,
And one that unrepentant sits and grins.
There’s one that loves his neighbor as himself,
And one that cares for naught but fame and self.
From such perplexing care I would be free
If I could once determine which is me.
I think those lines echo Paul’s words in Romans 7:15:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” NIV
What most often stands in the way for us is shame.
It’s shame that hinders us from having the courage to look at the mixture of shadow and light within us, feel ashamed of what is not good, and accept God’s loving acceptance of us knowing that He sees the shadows that haunt us and halt us from reaching out to Him.
These parts of us are not separated neatly inside. They live in a murky twilight made up of shadows preventing us from seeing clearly.
Yet that is the very obstacle the Lord invites us to overcome because it is His grace that will heal our shame and finally free us. It is that overcoming we need as well after we have walked with Him for a time and see our failures, our habits, and our missteps and fear we can never go back again and seek His grace when we already know the truth.
The Lord’s grace to us is a gracious grace.
One of the things that can get us stuck or keep us in limbo is how we are offered grace by someone other than Christ. When we have failed, offended, or sinned against someone and we seek their grace and forgiveness, because they are flawed even as we are it can often be difficult for them to offer us a gracious grace.
When they do not offer that kind of grace, when it comes with a tone reflecting their self-righteousness, or when it comes with hesitancy and a “but” connected with it, it shames us. It doesn’t tell us we are worthy to receive their grace or forgiveness.
True grace never makes me feel less. In spite of who I am and what I have done, it accepts me, warts and all, and loves me.
What a gift!
One thing I know that is true. If I look for grace apart from Christ, the results may not always be a gracious grace. Nevertheless, I am called to walk out love in my relationships.
One of the greatest gifts you or I can receive is the true love of a faithful friend. Such a friend will be rare among my or your relationships, but one that will be valued highly as the Lord’s grace to us.
Such a friend will want you to be the very best you can be, not be threatened by your successes or turned off by your failures. They will also love you enough to confront you about things you may not see in yourself that get in the way of being the best you, that thwart your relational health, hinder your connection with the Lord, and distort your perception of yourself while still accepting you, never losing sight of the very best parts of you.
That friend will (like Christ) offer us a gracious grace.
“Grace graciously given honors our worth as it overlooks our undeserving.” Lewis Smedes