Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Walking in Grace

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.    Ephesians 4:31 - 5:2

     I have to confess that I have often struggled with bitterness. I have been able to forgive the many hurts and grievances in my past, but often I struggle to forgive those that are ongoing in my present. However, there is nothing at all in the Word of God to suggest that it is OK to nurse a small grudge or to let a little bitterness creep in here or there. All that has to be put aside--literally, like dirty clothes. In Christ, I am called to take off the old nature and put on the new. This is a picture of completeness; just as none of us would come in from yard work and change only our pants before heading out to a nice dinner, there is no sense in hanging on to a little grime from our pre-Christ life. 

     When I look at the price that was paid for me, I am ashamed at my tendency to feel malice or resentment towards others. After all, if my eyes are fixed on Christ, where they should be, I would hardly notice what is done to me. All hurts would be swallowed up by the overwhelming love and gratitude that comes of being redeemed by Him, of knowing Him. When my sight is properly aligned on Him, there is no room left for anger or clamor. He is enough; indeed, He is everything

     I have often heard talk from well-meaning people who believe that I am being too hard on myself or not "walking in grace." I fear that there is a misunderstanding of grace here. Grace has already been extended by God to cover my sins. Literally, I am offered a complete change of nature in Christ, but I must first cast aside my old nature completely.
     But that is not the way you learned Christ!-- assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:20-24
     What I seen in grace is this: I am offered a completely new set of garments, a thoroughly clean new nature to put on in place of my old, soiled, tattered one. In the blood of Christ, I am forgiven completely and without a shred of reservation. That is grace, extended to me by my Father despite the fact that I am not deserving of it in the slightest. So then, to "walk in grace," is not to accept this new nature and don it only to spoil it by wallowing in the same filth that I had just been cleansed of. It is to walk gratefully and carefully in the new garment of grace so as to keep it unspoiled.

     To go back to my yard work metaphor, let us pretend for a moment.If I were to come in from a day in the sun covered in grass clippings, grime and gook from the weedeater, mud from my garden, and a liberal layer of sweat and I am due for a formal dinner engagement in the evening. To make the metaphor work better, say that my husband had purchased a new and very expensive white dress for the occasion which he had gifted me with. I would not say, "Thanks!" and proceed to wipe my face with the dress, nor would I change into the new clothes and then return to kneel in my garden and finish the weeding. I would shower and change, would walk carefully so as not to spill or stain the new dress, and I would be full of wonder and gratitude at the undeserved gift.

     Now my metaphor breaks down a bit because anyone who knows me or my husband knows that we are not strictly the formal dinner engagement type, nor is the the gift of a new dress anywhere near as pure and precious as the spilled blood of the Lamb of God. One has a hefty price tag, the other is priceless entirely. However, it is an illustration, a bit silly perhaps, but nevertheless an accurate illustration of what it means to walk in grace. It is not to make little of the grace we are extended, but to accept grace with, well, with graciousness and with all sincerity and humility. We could never have never paid the penalty of our sins even if we were given eternity to work them off. He paid it all, and He extends that gift of a paid penalty to us as an act of undeserved and unfathomably generous grace.

     To walk in His grace is to walk in unadulterated gratitude and love for the One who gave Himself in my stead; to clumsily imitate His walk as a child will imitate his father's mannerisms; to walk humbly and obediently for anything He asks of me can never be more than the price He has already paid. May we who know Him walk in grace today and in all the days to come.