Christian Fitness Living- Danger of Grace

The Danger of Grace

I used to work with a woman who seemed to rarely want to learn anything new. It wasn’t because she wasn’t a hard-working employee; in fact, quite the opposite. She had played an important role in helping the boss start the company. She wore multiple hats and kept many plates spinning. She was loyal, trustworthy, and detail-oriented.

So why the resistance to learn anything new? Her answer? “Cause then I’ll have to do it.” 

Truth be told, she had acquired countless new skills over her career. Now, though, her workload was at capacity. Learning a new process or software feature would most certainly add to her burden, not lessen it. The more tasks she would understand how to do, the more tasks she would have to do. She would be required to take her newfound knowledge and exercise it, without excuses. 

This same prerequisite undergirds our lives as Christians. As we grow in the fullness of Christ, we have a greater responsibility to extend that same fullness to others. Furthermore, the gift of grace is the most tempting gift to keep to ourselves.

Grace, conversely, is not a gift that goes up on a mantel to be admired. It doesn’t get accepted, only to be put back in the box and rewrapped. We don’t have the luxury of hoarding it, building bigger barns to store more and more of it. 

Grace is not static. It’s dynamic. 

That is the danger of grace.

It requires those who accept it to also share it. Receiving grace requires us to put it into practice. Those who don’t extend grace have either never truly understood and accepted it, or, as Jesus explains, have willfully subjected themselves to judgement.

SIDENOTE: Do not get caught up in the differences between “grace” and “mercy” and “forgiveness.” For illustrative purposes, I’m referring to a story on mercy. Mercy and grace, however, are two sides of the same coin. They are often used interchangeably. 

In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor. The story goes something like this: A servant owed a king millions of dollars. Rather than making the servant sell everything he owned, including his family, the king forgave the servant’s debt.

The servant leaves to confront a fellow servant who owed him only a few thousand dollars. This debtor also begged for more time. The creditor, who had just received a staggering gift of mercy from the king, refused to extend that same mercy. Instead, he had the debtor thrown into prison.

The king caught wind of the situation, summoned the servant, and said, “’Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.” 

Jesus concluded the parable with this haunting line: “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

Yikes! It would appear that the Father takes forgiveness rather seriously. Why shouldn’t He? He gave us His only son to demonstrate the ultimate act of grace for us. If we have been shown such extravagant grace, why can it be so hard to show it to others?

The ugly truth? We are at war with our old, broken selves.

Yes, we are forgiven. Yes, we are being made new. And yes, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can become more like Jesus every day.

But we are still inherently broken. The default setting of our old, defective nature creates an internal struggle that our new nature has to fight against. 

We are wired to sin and we live in a sinful world. 

Our spiritual DNA calls us to be like Christ.  Yet our natural DNA tries to snap us back into our original mold. 

Our sinful nature versus our new nature. 

Old self versus true self

We are called to live holy lives in all we do, even while we wage an internal tug of war; a war for which there can be no treaty and giving in is not an option. So, how do we win? 

We win, ironically, by surrendering… to grace. And therein lies the danger. By surrendering to grace, we are agreeing to accept it and extend it. We are obligating ourselves to bestow it to others.

While grace, by definition, cannot be earned, it can be learned. 

The more we use it, the more we understand it. The more we appreciate it, the more we accept it.

The more we understand, appreciate, and accept grace, the more we can give it away. And the more we give it away, the more it starts to reshape us into the likeness of Jesus.

Are there people in your life from whom you’ve knowingly withheld grace? Unknowingly?

Not sure? Pray about it. 

Maybe more importantly, do you routinely withhold grace from yourself? Yes, that’s a thing. In fact, it might be a pandemic in modern day Christianity. We often times find ourselves the hardest for whom to express grace. That stumbling block, which has pride at its core, might be keeping you from experiencing true freedom.

We win, ironically, by surrendering… to grace. And therein lies the danger. By surrendering to grace, we are agreeing to accept it and extend it. We are obligating ourselves to bestow it to others.

God has showered you with grace. Who are you not to choose grace for yourself? And make no mistake, it is a choice. One you have to make consciously. 

Dropped the ball in your parenting? “I’m choosing grace for myself that I ___________.” (I’ve been doing this one a lot lately!)

Performance at work? “I’m choosing grace for ________.”

Struggling with your fitness?

Missing the mark in your relationships? Your witness? Your worship? 

For all these, you have the responsibility to give yourself grace. 

There is even grace for your struggle with choosing grace for yourself.

Then, because grace is dynamic, we get to learn from it, take action, and grow. We do not continue sinning so that grace abounds. We must listen to what the Word says and do it!

We are being transformed by the power of Christ in us. Our spiritual DNA has been re-sequenced, changing and equipping us to become more and more like Christ. And to be like Christ means living a life characterized by generosity, humility, and sacrifice, the three pillars of grace.

You see, grace is dangerous indeed. It requires vulnerability. Honesty. Effort. It can be hard and painful. 

Freeing? Yes!

But grace also has radical implications for our spiritual lives. The gift of grace adds to our load, it doesn’t lighten it. We have to take that gift and exercise it. 

No excuses. 

Time to put grace into practice.

Where will you begin?