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
The apostle Paul begins by saying, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But do we? Can we say honestly that we know His grace? Or is grace just another theological concept that we think we understand but has yet to reach down and penetrate our souls? After centuries of use, words like ‘grace’ can become worn and commonplace.
The apostle is very fond of the word “grace” (charis), using it ten times in II Corinthians 8-9 alone. With his background of persecuting the church and blaspheming Jesus, Paul certainly understood grace. Grace has become Paul’s abbreviation for all the riches God showers on us in Jesus Christ. Grace is the grand total of God’s free, unearned, undeserved, unmerited goodness.
How unlike the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is Santa and a Santa Christmas. Santa is “making his list and checking it twice”; Santa’s “gonna find out who’s naughty and nice”. Be sure, that Santa “knows who’s been good or bad”! Sadly, many have allowed a Santa theology to tar the face of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
Contrast the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with the world’s religions. Not unlike Santa they function on the basis of who’s been good or bad. They recompense according to who’s been naughty or nice. Religion, and much of Christendom, is based on what we do for God, and give to God. But the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is based on what God does for us, and what God gives to us.
Imagine a friend gives you an expensive gift for Christmas. Would you grab for your purse or wallet and say, “You shouldn’t have! Let me give you something in return!” How rude and embarrassing that would be for the giver. Similarly, Martin Luther believed that God’s grace was dishonored by our trying to earn it (The Freedom of the Christian). If we ever imagine that God’s grace is dependent on what we give to God, or do for God, we might end up thinking that we have earned it. Such an attitude can hinder us in receiving God’s “indescribable gift”: God’s gift to us of His Son.
Theologian Lewis Smedes in his book, Shame and Grace, ponders God’s grace: “God loves and accepts us more deeply, totally, and unconditionally than we could ever fathom – it’s truly grace beyond our wildest dreams!” Do we truly know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? Reflect on these salient points from Smedes’ Shame and Grace:
- “I believe that I am accepted by the grace of God without regard to my deserving.”
- “I believe that I am accepted with my shadows (issues, baggage) and the mix of good and bad I breed in them.”
- “I believe that grace has set me free to accept myself totally, and without conditions.”
- “I believe that nothing I deserve to be ashamed of (any failures or weakness I see in me) will ever make me unacceptable to God.”
- “I am gratefully proud of being who I am and what I shall be.”
Yes, we know, and long to know more of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!
- What are your thoughts about the points Lewis Smedes makes regarding grace? What feelings do his points stir in you?
- What does God’s “grace” mean to you in your everyday life?
- Do you agree or disagree with Martin Luther who thought it dishonoring to God to try to earn His grace? Explain.