Grace is amazingly hard — and amazingly wonderful

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist

Grace is hard. It is almost incomprehensibly wonderful. It seems almost too good to be true because it actually is almost too good to be true. It is amazing! But it is hard.

Grace is hard because accepting it means nothing less than death to our pride.

If the sacrifice of Christ really is, as the scriptures claim, all-sufficient to save me, that not only means that I am powerless to save myself apart from faith in that sacrifice, it also means that I have no right — less than none at all — to boast that I have in any way earned what can only be accepted as a gift.

Accepting Christ’s sacrifice and being clothed in his righteousness means that I have no right to self-righteousness in any sense of the word. That truth chafes a bit. I would so like to harbor the illusion that there is something good in me, something I can be haughty about, something that makes me a cut above other mortals, that makes me acceptable to God.

Nope. That is not the case. I’m in the same boat with every other fallen son of Adam and daughter of Eve. If I think differently, I have far too high an opinion of myself and I don’t understand the meaning of grace. Grace, you see, is hard.

Grace is hard because accepting it means becoming more Christ-like than I could ever be on the basis of law. Law pats me on the back and says, “Hey, look at that murderer on trial. Aren’t you proud that you are such a fine person that you haven’t murdered anyone lately.” Grace looks much deeper into my soul and asks, “Have you hated anyone lately?”

Law asks, “I wonder how little I can do, how little I can give, how little I can worship, how little I can love, and still be okay with God?” Grace asks instead, “O Lord, how could I possibly thank you enough with every breath, every dollar, every heartbeat, for continually cleansing me through Christ?” And grace always does more, loves more, gives more, is more than law.

Law says, “Here is a list of rules. Do this, don’t do this. Work harder. Try harder. By your own power.” And Satan adds, “Or God can’t love you.” Grace says, “Be this through Christ. His spirit will provide the power. By the way, God already loves you, and always will.”

Law says, “I’ve chosen not to do this thing, I’ve given up that thing, I don’t think it’s good to ever [fill in whatever thing], and so my decision is one I have every right to impose on you.” Grace says, “It is before his own master that anyone stands or falls, and your master is able to make you stand. Make a sincere decision based on sincere love for your master and praise him for the freedom to choose. And, let your pride die yet again as you praise God just as loudly for the freedom your brother has to make a different choice.” (See Romans 14).

It is amazing how hard grace is. And how wonderful.