Grace isn’t fair… Does that make you uncomfortable? It’s probably something you haven’t thought too much about, but I think it’s true. Because grace essentially gives something to someone that they don’t deserve. Which isn’t fair because it almost always costs the giver.
But that’s exactly what Jesus has done for us. He gave us life at the expense of His own.
You see, there was a cosmic dilemma that existed before Christ came. God, by his very nature is just, which means that wrong doing and sin had to be punished. At the same time, he has an incredible love for his creation and desires that all humanity would follow him (2 Peter 3:9)… So what do you do? On the one hand, justice must be served. On the other, we are his children whom He loves dearly.
Enter the genius of the cross… On the cross, justice was served. Somebody was paying for the sin and moral failure of humanity. Jesus, the perfect man who was fully God, took upon himself that which we deserved. He took the penalty that should have been served to us. He paid with his life so that we didn’t have to.
Yet, at the very same time, grace was on display. Because as Jesus gives up his life, we gain life. We become new creations. We are saved and we are pronounced as sons and daughters of God. And because of Jesus’s sacrificial love (His grace), we can be pronounced good when we stand before God someday.
But understand, this is anything but fair. Sure, we benefit, but Jesus had to literally give up Heaven (Philippians 2:6-11) to save us. Jesus took upon himself the sin of the world, so that we could live. He endured the suffering, the cross, the ridicule, the embarrassment, and the grave for you and me. How could we ever say that grace is fair when we see what Jesus went through?
Which leads me to the application of grace in our own lives. As we lean more and more into God’s grace, it should change us. It should propel us to be more like him. To love and serve in the ways that he did.
And if you ever want to have any success in helping people find and follow Jesus, you have to accept that grace is unfair… Because your new role as a follower of Christ is to love others the way Christ has loved you. Your role is to give grace. But you need to know ahead of time, grace isn’t fair, because somebody always pays.
If a friend breaks your lamp, you’ll pay when you replace it. When someone robs you of an opportunity, of happiness, of reputation, or takes something away that you’ll never get back, there is a sense of debt that is created between you and the other person… Because justice has been violated and this person owes you (adapted from King’s Cross by Tim Keller).
So, when someone wrongs you, you have two options. Get even. Or give grace.
And herein lies the practical answer to a lot of our problems today… We’ve forgotten how to give grace to those we do life with. We love to talk about God’s grace for us and how much we need it, but we become greedy with our grace for the world around us.
When someone says a harsh word on social media, do we fight back or give grace? When we have an opportunity ripped out from underneath us, do we slander or give grace? When your spouse lets you down, do you get even or give grace? When there’s a misunderstanding between you and a friend, do you ridicule or give grace?
Giving grace is a requirement when following Jesus. And it is rarely fair. But, when we keep Jesus in view and what He’s done for us, it gives us the basis for why we give grace. Always remember that God’s grace toward us is the reason for our grace toward others. I love how Dallas Willard says it in his book Renovation of the Heart:
The greatest saints are not those who need less grace, but those who consume the most grace, who indeed are most in need of grace—those who are saturated by grace in every dimension of their being. Grace to them is like breath.
If you want to be more like Jesus, then consume more grace so that you can give more grace.
Breathe grace in. Exhale grace out.
Mark Twain is quoted as saying,
Most people are bothered by those passages of scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.
Despite what you may think about Mark Twain, he’s on to something. Followers of Jesus spend lots of time looking at Revelation, creation, or spiritual gifts. We love debating and arguing about ideas and passages that are larger in scope but ultimately don’t have as much to do with our daily life. We spend so much time talking about Scripture, but very little time living Scripture.
As I recall many of my conversations about the Bible, I often ask questions like “How do you think the world will end? Do you think Creation was completed in 7 days, or was that just a poem?” Rarely do I find myself saying, “The book of James tells us to care for orphans and widows… How can we do that better?”
You see the problem here? The intricacies of the beginning of the world and the schedule of the end of the world is not nearly as important as the question of “How should I live?” If God is creator, how do I live to fulfill His purposes? If Jesus wins in the end, how then do I live to make sure everyone is following Him?
Rarely, have I heard someone say, “They convinced me that the world was created in 7 days, so now I believe in Jesus.” I usually hear:
“This person loved me.”
“They were there for me when I was in a dark time.”
“They walked with me through cancer.”
“They forgave me.”
“They lived out everything they believed."
You see the difference? One approach focuses on being right… The other focuses on loving well. When we love well, we take the truth of Scripture (that we want everyone to believe!) from being an idea and put it on display as a reality. It’s no longer, “The world was created in 7 days, believe it!” But instead, “God created you with His image… So you deserve dignity, justice, and love from me… No matter our differences.”
And I get it… We want to defend Scripture, we want to prove it’s truthfulness, and we want people to know that it is reliable and tested. But no matter how smart we are or how well we prove the Bible (and there are some great thinkers and writers who have done so incredibly well!), people will reject it. That’s why C.S Lewis said,
Whatever claims reverence, risks ridicule.
No matter how well we defend Scripture, people will always ridicule. Because it makes big, life-changing claims. And please hear me, I believe the Bible to be without error. I believe it to be infallible and inspired by the God of Universe. And since I have such strong convictions about Scripture, it’s all the more important that I make its truth a reality by living it out in everyday life.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says, “Your will be done on Earth as it is Heaven.” When we live out the Bible, we bring a little bit of Heaven to Earth. And we give the world glimpses of the life-changing love of Jesus.
Don’t just read or use Scripture to prove a point. Use it as a guide on how to live and how to love. Open your heart to Scripture before using it to judge someone else’s. Let it change you so that you can love, serve, and live Scripture out on a daily basis. After all, it was Jesus who said,
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
We may not realize it, but everyone desires to be known. Why do you think personality tests are so popular? The Enneagram, Meyers Briggs, and DiSC are all tools and tests used to help us better understand ourselves and each other. Because when we know each other, and ourselves, we can work together better.
But I think there is an even more important reason than simply creating a healthy team dynamic. Only when you are known can you truly be loved. Think about it, real love is not simply physical attraction, having fun together, or sharing things in common. Real love is sacrificial. Jesus once said that the greatest love is to lay down’s one life for his friend. Real love is sacrificial.
And the reason I believe being known is fundamental to love, is because when someone sacrifices something for me, they do so knowing all of my flaws and shortcomings. When my wife says, “I love you,” those are not three little words that we just throw around. Those words mean that she deeply cares for me despite my harsh words and selfish actions. When you are known, scars and all, but loved anyway, you’re getting to that deep kind of sacrificial love that Jesus was talking about.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I love country music, specifically Eric Church. Several years ago he released a song called “Like Jesus Does.” It’s a song about how much his lady loves him. Here’s an excerpt from one of the verses:
I'm a left foot leaning on a supped up Chevy
I'm a good ol' boy drinkin' whiskey and rye on the levee
But she carries me when my sins make me heavy
And loves me like Jesus does
In other words, the girl knows everything about me, but loves me anyway. She loves me like Jesus does. Because Jesus’ love is sacrificial. Jesus sees everything. He knows everything. Yet, He forgives all things. He gave His life for you so that you could live. He loved you despite your flaws. He knows you, yet loves you anyway. When it comes to Jesus, love is not blind. His loves sees all, yet chooses you anyway.
It reminds of the famous Psalm 139 when David writes,
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
God knows you better than you know yourself. David couldn’t comprehend how much God knew and loved him. And despite God’s great knowledge of us, He chose to send Jesus. And Jesus loved us. So much so, that He gave His own life so that we could live. Take heart, Christian, you are known… But more importantly, you are loved.
Have you ever wondered what the point of relationships are? I mean, if you think about it relationships can be messy. People backstab us. They let us down. They disappoint us. And some relationships cause jealousy and strife. With all the negative possibilities that could come out of relationships, why bother?
We were never meant to do life alone. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you believe in the often-confusing, hard to understand Trinity (God the Father, Jesus the Son, and The Holy Spirit). Belief in the Trinity asserts that the God we worship, though one, is also three. I know… It’s confusing. How can one God be three? And before we go too far down the rabbit hole, will you just pause and be in awe of God’s three-in-one nature (for real though… Stop reading and ponder this)?
When we think about how incredible God is, doesn’t it make sense that we might not understand everything about Him? Isn’t there something beautiful to just being in awe of something so beautiful and so complex? There is a humility in this mindset because when it comes to the Trinity, we kind of have to say “Here’s my best shot of understanding it, but God you’re far bigger and better than anything I could think of… So I’ll just delight in who You say You are. I’ll delight in the wonder of it all.
So God is three-in-one. There are three personhoods that have existed since the beginning of time. Three personhoods that have the purest relationship since before the Earth was spoken into existence (See John 1). And then, in the creation narrative something incredible happens. Our three-in-one, existing in pure relationship, God is creating the universe. And He says, “Let us make man in our image… “(Gen 1:26). All mankind is made in the image of God. And if we are made in the image of God, then we share characteristics with God.
In other words, if the pure relationship of the Trinity is part of who God is, then, as humans we too will value relationships as we try to be more like Jesus. And relationships will be a part of who we are. In fact, when God finishes creating he sees that it is better for man to have companionship (and Eve was created). We were never meant to do life alone.
So here’s a simple step in being more like Jesus… Just be a friend.
Seek out people you can connect with. Find people who share common interests. Look for people who are different than you and get to know them. But also, look for the more vulnerable among us and reach out to them. Serve them. Love them. Befriend them.
Because it’s not always about being in relationships with people just like us. In fact, Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and love people. Not just people like us or who have the same hobby or share the same interests. But all people. People who annoy us. People who make us mad. People who don’t deserve love.
God calls us to be a friend because it’s part of His nature to exist in relationship. And we when seek out relationships, we not only show the love of God, but we become more like Him in the process.
So, what is the point of relationships?
To be more like Jesus.