By Curtis K. Shelburne
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound!”
Grace, the real thing, is precious almost beyond belief. It’s cool water to a man dying of thirst. It’s life and health to a woman who a week before was lying feverish on her deathbed.
Grace really is amazing!
But what even Christians, and maybe especially Christians, often fail to realize is how very tough it is, too.
Yes, it’s amazingly good news, this news flash from Heaven that though we were all sinners condemned to death, convicted criminals languishing on death row, “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
It’s amazingly good news that “God raised us up with Christ” so that for all eternity and to the amazement of the entire universe he could “show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (2:6).
And there’s no catch.
There’s no fly in the ointment.
No hook under the worm.
No fine print.
No “real sinners need not apply” clause.
So how can this wonderful thing called grace, the most beautiful gift ever given, still be as tough as nails?
Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast.”
You see, grace is indeed the free gift of God. Grace means for us life and joy and peace. Grace really is amazing!
But, make no mistake, it can’t be earned, not even a little bit. It comes completely from God’s side of the equation. Do I in any way deserve such a gift? No! Thank God, deserving doesn’t even enter in, and to dare to use the word “deserve” in the same paragraph with words praising God for his mercy and grace is a slap in the face of the Almighty, a denial of the cross, and a backhanded attempt to breathe life into an arrogant and self-righteous spirit that really must move out and die before grace can enter in to give us life.
Yeah, I know. When you really think about it, it gets kind of scary. If this grace business is true, then God might let almost anyone into heaven. He might forgive folks who really, unlike me, aren’t as obviously good and religious and among his favorites. If you didn’t know better, you might almost think that God still feels like Jesus seemed to feel when he walked this globe, that not only did he spend time with “sinners” who knew they had no hope except for God’s mercy (but who knew the joy of finding it), he really enjoyed that time more than time spent with Pharisees. Could that be true?
Grace won’t leave me a single gimpy leg to stand on if I want to make my stand on law. But if I focus on God and get over myself, I’ll find to my everlasting amazement that the God of all grace has given me two very good legs to dance on.