Sometimes you don’t know the weight of what you’re carrying until you feel the weight of it’s release.
Over the last twelve years God has taken me on a journey of learning to receive his grace. It began with the revelation that truly he loves me. Not just that he “so loved the world” but that that includes little ol’ me. He actually knows me. Every part of me. He sees it all and he loves me just the same. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Here’s the thing, he’s going after hearts. He calls us to live a holy life but it’s not that he is preoccupied with sin—that’s just a symptom of him not having our hearts. He is drawing us in with his love and kindness, not his anger. (Hosea 2:14, Romans 2:4) Anger causes us to put up walls, but love breaks down those walls. When someone is angry with us we instinctively feel the need to protect ourselves, to put up our defenses. We feel fear and shame. But perfect love, God’s love, casts out all fear. When we truly experience God’s grace it is humbling.
We may have experienced his grace and love before and felt so humbled in fact, that we couldn’t even receive it. So we tried to earn it. We tried to be good enough. We, perhaps unwittingly, tried to please him through our good works and acts of service. “If I can make my Father proud, then I’ll be worthy of his love” our subconscious minds think. When we fell in our sin we made sure to stay on the ground long enough to demonstrate our awareness of our failings and our willingness to pay penance. We stayed away from his presence for a little while because we felt unworthy.
Could it be that we have such a hard time accepting God’s grace because it is truly so amazing that it literally is beyond our understanding. Rather than accepting the fact that it really is that good and it probably wont ever fully make sense to our minds we settle for a lesser grace and choose to strive in our own strength. All he is asking us to do is to give in and receive that love and grace; to give in to the incredible goodness of who he is.
Many of us though, haven’t been able to fully receive his love and grace which renders us unable to extend it to others. We get caught up on the sins of others (and ourselves) which only serves to distract us from the desperate love of God that he is waiting to pour out on us. We call out other’s sins to make ourselves feel justified by comparison. Or we hide in our shame.
When we’ve learned to accept God’s love and grace for ourselves we realize that no one is good enough and that’s the beauty. It frees us up to love others unconditionally and not hold their sins against them because neither does God condemn us.
Did you feel tension reading that last statement? Instinctively many of us rush to put conditions on God’s grace out of fear someone will use it as an excuse to sin. When we haven’t fully accepted God’s love we will fear. But fear has no place where perfect love is. It was for freedom he set us free, not fear. (Galatians 5:1)
There’s a beautiful dichotomy found in God’s grace. His grace is sufficient for every struggle we face. Strength to resist every sin we are tempted by. He doesn’t give up on us and his grace doesn’t run out. Even when we’re unfaithful he is faithful. When we turn our backs on him he is there waiting for us. The minute we turn around we find ourselves face to face with him, not staring at his back like we may expect. And yet his will isn’t that we keep struggling with the same sins, but that we are set free from them.
The problem is that on our own we are powerless against sin. When we try and fight sin simply by the strength of our will, whether it’s greed, lust, selfishness, gluttony or whatever your particular flavor of sin happens to be, we will fail miserably. We have to come to the place of complete dependence on God. When we’re weak then he can be strong. If we think we can do it on our own strength we will inevitably fail.
Freedom in Christ looks like weakness. Freedom looks like surrender. Freedom looks like slavery.
We exchange our slavery to sin for slavery to righteousness. (Romans 6:18) We become slaves of Jesus Christ and in doing so find true freedom. Independence and self-sufficiency is slavery to sin but complete surrender to Christ means freedom from everything that would try and control us.
His grace is sufficient. His. Grace. Is. Sufficient.
When we encounter the humbling love and grace of God and surrender in weakness we are able to embrace the fact that we could never earn it or be worthy of it on our own. This swings wide the door of our hearts to receive his love instead of striving for it and sets us free to love him and others back. There is nothing we can do to separate us from that love. We can’t earn it, we can’t lose it and we can’t make him love us more than he already does. All that is left to do is to receive.
As slaves of Christ our hearts are so fully consumed with God and his awesome love that sin, while we will still be tempted, has no hold on us. We choose to honor God with our choices because we are in a relationship, not following a religion. Religion requires rules. Relationships require love.
Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
If we were able to walk in perfect love as described in those verses, sin would essentially be a non-issue. If husbands and wives lived out love perfectly in their marriages infidelity and divorce wouldn’t exist. If we didn’t envy we wouldn’t steal. If we weren’t self-seeking we wouldn’t cheat. If we fully rejoiced in the truth we wouldn’t lie. And if we were patient our car horns would get used a lot less use! But we are imperfect humans and so we love imperfectly.
Maybe instead of spending all of our effort putting up external boundaries and guidelines to avoid sin we should evaluate the posture of our heart towards God. Have we surrendered to him in weakness? Have we truly received his love? And do we love him back with all that is in us?
We love because he first loved us. It’s because of his amazing love that we are compelled to love him in return. We just receive it and walk out our salvation in his strength. (Philippians 2:12, 13)