Recently I was talking with a group of Christians from various religious traditions and the topic of grace came up. That’s not surprising. Grace is one of the pivotal concepts in Christianity. It refers to God’s love that saves and redeems us.
The more we talked about grace, the more a particular phrase was repeated, “We don’t deserve God’s grace. But He gives it to us because He loves us.” They defined grace as getting what you don’t deserve, i.e. God’s love and forgiveness and life eternal.
I couldn’t disagree more.
We do deserve God’s grace. True, we don’t earn it, but we do deserve it.
Does a new-born deserve a parent’s love? Of course. A baby hasn’t done anything to earn that love–except exist. Every child, at every stage of life deserves a parent’s love.
At every stage of our lives, we deserve God’s love and grace. It is part of our heritage as children on God. And when I say “we” I mean everyone.
So where does this notion come from that declares we don’t deserve God’s love and forgiveness? I hear it said, “Grace is getting what you don’t deserve, and not getting what you do deserve. Christianity teaches that what we deserve is death with no hope of resurrection.”
NO! NO! NO!
Jesus never said anything like that. Jesus never said we deserve death. He declared, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 KJV) We deserve life. His basic message was that everyone deserved God’s grace. He came to show us that grace in action. In fact part of the definition of the Greek word for grace, charis, is “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”
Grace is not some passive gift God bestows upon us once we believe in Him. Grace is an active power in our lives that inspires, redeems, nourishes, and heals us. It directs and protects us. It impels us to do God’s will instead of our own.
I think this limited theological definition of grace as something undeserved is just the result of the human mind, over the centuries, trying to figure out how and why God could love us. The human mind knows it has messed up and feels unworthy of being loved. Or it sees someone else who has made a mess of things and thinks they are unworthy of God’s love. We say we want unconditional love, but more often we don’t really. What we want is to be loved and recognized for something we did. We want our actions to be validated. This human mind, I call it the “hamster wheel syndrome,” goes round and round trying to make sense of how it could be possible for God to love us even when we have sinned and eventually comes up with its own concocted reasons, often using carefully selected Bible verses to back up its conclusions.
And there’s another factor. It’s about your world view, so to speak. If you think of God creating mankind, knowing all the time that they would sin, setting it up so they could hardly help themselves from sinning, and then punishing them for these very sins He knew would come, you have a sin-based world view of man and tyrant-based world view of God.
Let’s translate this world view of God and man down to the level of a dad and his son. If I, as a dad, knowingly set things in motion for my son to sin, knowing that eventually he would succumb, whose fault is it when he sins? Mine or my son’s? The larger blame is on me because I arranged for it to happen. My son would be responsible for his actions. But so would I. If I only punish my son and take no responsibility for my part, who has committed the greater sin?
Will I punish my three year old son by kicking him out of my house because he disobeyed me? But isn’t that what many theologians teach about God? Hopefully, I would patiently teach him how to do what is right and why. Are we much different than toddlers in God’s eyes? And doesn’t He have much more patience than any human parent?
There is something wrong with a world view of God who sets creation in motion to sin and then punishes the helpless victims of His actions, taking no responsibility for His part in the process.
God is Love
I believe in a God who is Love itself, always abounding with justice, grace, mercy, and forgiveness for His children. Do they earn it? No. Do they deserve this love, this grace? Yes, always. Why? Because it is God who made us in the first place. It is His job to love us. It is His duty to care for the children He brings into the world.
When my children were born, they evoked more love from me than I knew was in my heart. I couldn’t help but love them. They didn’t have to do anything to get that love to come forth. It just flowed freely and uncontrollably. Can God’s love for us be anything less? On the contrary, it is infinitely greater than any parent’s love for a child.
Jesus did not hold the world view that man was a miserable sinner. He did not think of people as depraved and born in sin as did the Pharisees of his day (see John 9:34). When he saw children, he didn’t pronounce upon them the curse of being sinners. He declared the exact opposite, “of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
Jesus’ disciples had tried to turn these same children away when their parents brought them to Jesus for a blessing. Jesus knew these children deserved a blessing. His disciples did not understand.
So today. Some of Jesus’ disciples do not yet realize that everyone deserves grace, love, and forgiveness from God. It is part of their divine heritage as a child of God. Even if someone is the worst sinner, they still deserve God’s love and grace. True, they need to repent and seek that grace, but they always deserve it. And it is always available.
If you have sinned, please be assured that you do deserve God’s grace. It is not just some random gift He bestows on some of His children. He created you and He has accepted His parental responsibilities to love you, even when you make a mess of things. God’s grace is your divine inheritance. Do not trade it away for a pot of lentils, as Esau did, just because a bunch of so-called scholarly theologians say you don’t deserve it.
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” I Corinthians 16:23
I hope you have found this helpful. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Blessings to you,
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