Grace is a word that has been tossed around so much that it has, unfortunately, lost quite a bit of its meaning. I would endeavor to say that many of us have vague thoughts about grace. We might believe it is what saves us. We might believe that it is what God gives whenever we don’t get punished for sin. Some might confuse grace and mercy (which are two different attributes, one is not synonymous for the other). Some might think that grace has something to do with prayer. And then there are a few that might think that Grace died 30 years ago.
Whatever your thoughts, we can all agree that grace is a term that has been used quite a bit. It is for good reason. Ephesians says that “it is by grace you have been saved.” Grace is spoken of heavily throughout the Pauline epistles. In fact, we probably gather most of our teachings regarding grace from Paul, particularly from Romans.
Grace used to exist. But now we are weighed down by phrases like:
You should’ve known better…
I expected more from you…
I can’t believe you did that…
When will you ever learn…
We’ve heard these phrases. Maybe from our parents. Maybe from friends. Maybe from fellow church members. Maybe from our pastor. When we hear those words, something inside of us dies. What is that thing? Our perception of grace.
In the evangelical church, we work hard at making sure grace is given to those outside the church. We want everyone to experience the grace of God; well, at least until you begin following Christ. When you start following Christ, you should know better. I mean, that’s what Paul is saying in Romans when he says “shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” What Paul is saying is that once you become a Christian, stop sinning because you shouldn’t increase grace. Right?
Sometimes the people who feel grace the least are the ones inside the church.
If a Christian has an abortion, she should’ve known better.
If a guy has sex with his girlfriend, he should’ve known better.
If someone is given to drunkenness, he/she should’ve known better.
Drugs? You should know better.
Did something you regret? You should know better.
And on and on the list can go. Because once you become a Christian, you should know better. Once you become a Christian, there is no grace. Well, unless it is one of the smaller sins, like lying, cheating, coveting, gossip, laziness, etc. Those sins are covered by grace because they aren’t really sins. They are the things we all do…which makes them okay; because God can’t damn us all to hell. So if you do a small sin, God’s grace covers that. But if you do a large sin, like sex, drugs, drunkenness, etc., there is no grace.
I hope we are shown as much grace as we give. One of the saddest things I see is when Christians are graceless toward other Christians. Our definition of grace has been killed by people withholding grace. For living in a covenant of grace, it sure looks a lot like the law at times.