:: The Beauty of Grace ::
“The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair…” ~ Dr. Glenn Kreider
The evening before I headed back from Dallas after my last seminary class on “last things” (how ironic, yet wonderful), I prayed a simple pray that God would be pleased to bring me an opportunity to share the Gospel of grace with someone during my journey back home. Little did I know what would transpire…
When my flight arrived in Chicago for a short stopover, most of the passengers exited the plane, making way for dozens of new passengers for the short flight to Detroit. As I sat pondering the recent discussion I had during the prior flight with a rather liberal professor from Eden Seminary, a young woman with a big smile sat down next to me. I returned her smile, politely said hello, and thought about getting back into a text I was reading on interpreting the book of Revelation.
However, in short order, she asked me how I was doing, where I had come from, why I was going to Detroit – which led to a half a dozen more questions. In return I asked her where she was from, her background, etc… and this is where it just became astounding. It just so happened that she was raised in the small city of St. Clair (just south of Port Huron, MI), where my family lived for several years. She was also a friend of some of my best friends from childhood there. Still more amazing, I realized I had played pick-up football with her brother when he occasionally joined in with some of my good friends when I was just 11 and 12 years old. And one more thing: she turned out to be the exact same age as me. I probably competed with her in the junior track and field competition when I was a kid. It truly is a small world. Or do we, perhaps, serve a big and amazing God?
As we discussed life and these crazy connections, I kept noticing her glance over to my Bible that I had placed on top of my laptop case. I silently prayed there would be a chance to share the Gospel with her. She went on to tell me she had left St. Clair after finishing up college, had decided to be a nanny for a year in London, met an Italian guy – whom she then ended up living with for six years. They traveled and lived in various places in Europe and Australia, and eventually wound up in California where they planned on getting more graduate-level education and “settling down”. Yet life did not quite go as planned. She went on to explain how their relationship ended, how she then transitioned to a new job in Chicago, and how she was currently going through a rough time emotionally because of several “let down” experiences.
The Karma Equation
As I sat quietly listening to her story, she suddenly interjected with a question, “So, what do you think about God and stuff? You know, since that’s what you’re studying at the seminary thing.” I briefly explained the hope of Christ and the Gospel, and then asked her, “So, what do you think about all that?” She responded, “Well, I basically believe in Karma… you know what goes around, comes around. Like, when you do a nice thing for someone, you will eventually get a return “nice thing” too… and when you doing something uncaring or unkind, that will eventually come back around, too.” She then went on to tell my a detailed story about how she had recently experienced her version of Karma, in relation to not helping a friend through a break-up experience, and then finding the same treatment when she found herself in a similar situation….
Then it hit me, this is the biggest difference between the Gospel of grace and the message of any other religion or “belief system” like Karma! Grace does not operate on a “fair scale”! If we got what was fair, we would all be facing death and eternal punishment right now. I then asked her, “So, with this idea of Karma, what hope is there if you do something really bad?”
Her response, “Well, I don’t know, I guess you would get a really bad return?”
Crazy Amazing Grace
And then it hit me again, the Gospel is a message of hope because it offers TOTALLY underserved, unmerited, kindness – grace to anyone who receives this gift of God. I then asked her, “So, what about the guy I met in the Huntsville prison complex in Texas, who was just a few years older than me, and had been sentenced to 325 years in prison for murdering two people and involvement in narcotic sales? Is there any hope for him? Or is there just one big, whopping “bad Karma” waiting for him?”
You see, as I was then able to share with Jessica that morning on a flight back to Detroit, the message of the Gospel is different than any other religious offer because it is a message of grace. As my teacher, Glenn Kreider says, “The beauty of God’s grace is that it makes life not fair.” No other religion offers undeserved, unmerited, unearned, divine favor. So, even for a guy who has committed the most grievous offense – there is hope. Even for a young woman who has messed up her life and knowingly rejected what she knows to be “right” – there is hope in the Gospel of grace. We are not bound to a vicious cycle of duty. For the believer in Christ, what goes around doesn’t come around, because the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ has circumvented the vicious cycle of our sin and says, “no more!” And when the Father looks at us He says, “What sin? What sin? It is as far away as the east is from the west.”
This unbelievable and beautiful grace has been offered simply because of God’s great love. You see, as I shared with Jessica that morning, God doesn’t expect us to be like a selfish guy who buys a dozen roses, an expensive bottle of perfume, a box of fancy chocolates, and a five-star dinner for his woman, only in order that he might get a good “return on his investment” later on. Nothing is more irritating to women than when a man simply lives for a good return, instead out of pure love.
God loves us because He loves us. Pure and simple. He doesn’t love us because we can do nice things for Him. He doesn’t love us because of anything we can do. He loves us so much that He died for you and for me. That is grace. We can’t earn it and we can’t buy it. We simply must believe that it is really true. Believe in grace instead of Karma. Live in grace instead of duty. Administer grace instead of legalism. Grace is not a good return on investment. It is a gift of God’s love. In this Gospel of grace anyone can find hope.
The prophet Nathan understood this grace (see 2 Samuel 7:1). King David understood this grace (2 Samuel 12:1, 11-13). Paul understood this grace – maybe that’s why he couldn’t stop talking about it and living in light of it – he mentioned the grace of God more than 150 times (see Acts 7:54-8:3; 9:1-8; 19b-30)!
If God’s blessings are earned through our actions, then they are not blessings but wages. God gives blessings by His grace.
There is a huge difference between being motivated by love and being motivated by fear or duty. The Gospel is a Gospel of grace, not fear. It’s a gift, not a laundry list! Let’s rejoice in the shocking and radical grace of our great God and thank Him that life in Christ is not fair.
In Christ Alone,
Listen here to the Podcast “The Beauty of Grace” for the full message. I’d love to hear your thoughts!