For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
II Corinthians 8:9
“Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is the glue.”
So wrote Nobel laureate and playwright Eugene O’Neill in his play, “The Great God Brown”. Drama critics have read those words as the confessional of a man acquainted with brokenness and God’s mending glue. We live by God’s grace.
Author Philip Yancey tells of a British conference on comparative religions where experts from around the world debated what was unique to Christianity. The discussion went on for some time until C. S. Lewis happened to come by. “What’s the rumpus about?” Lewis asked. The panelists said they were debating Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions. Lewis fired back, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.” Yes, it is grace, as only “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” dares proclaim God’s love — unconditional, unlimited, and unfathomable.
Jesus joined Himself to us to make His Father our Father too! Jesus flouted all the metrics of graceless religion that demands we look good and be good. Jesus came to give us rest and not a test. I think I get it, I think that I understand God’s grace for a broken and abandoned Eugene O’Neil. I think I understand His grace for all of Jesus’ sleazy friends, like the prostitutes, Roman tax collectors, and public sinners. I get that! I get His grace for all the meth addicts, the prisoners serving life sentences, and the frantic, last minute deathbed turnings to Him. But I struggle with receiving His grace as one who has tried hard to play by the rules and to live right. I get God’s grace for other people, but what about me? Religion still beats the daylights out of me, and hounds me: “Have I believed enough?” “Have I been sincere enough?” “Have I repented enough?” I thought Jesus came to give us rest!
Have we turned the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ into a bait-and-switch scheme? Do we promise free, unlimited, indescribable grace to unbelievers, but make it about works once we get them into the fold? Do we bait them with promises of grace, only to make it about deserving? But here is needed grace, not just for unbelievers but for believers too! Even after conversion we are moment by moment upheld by God’s unearned grace.
I know, I know, I’m a minister! I hear people warn that if we make too much of grace, then we promote sin and careless living! But that’s the same complaint made against Paul in his day: “And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), ‘Let us do evil so that good may come’” (Romans 3:8).
As an ordained minister of the Gospel of God’s grace, who still struggles with freely receiving grace, I am struck by Charles Swindoll’s words:
To all fellow ministers, if you claim to be a messenger of grace, if you think you are really preaching grace, yet no one is taking advantage of it, maybe you haven’t preached it hard enough or strong enough. I can assure you of this: Grace killing ministers will never have that charge brought against them. They make sure of that! (The Grace Awakening)
Thank you Charles Swindoll, and thank you Eugene O’Neil for reminding me of my need to daily receive “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”. John Newton had it right in his hymn “Amazing Grace”: “Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
- Do you think of Jesus as coming to give you a test, or coming to give you rest? Explain.
- Do you ever worry about having had enough faith, or having repented enough?
- Why might people who talk about free, undeserved grace sometimes get accused of making it too easy or promoting sinful living? What would you say to such accusations?