Grace Be With You

Jesus Loves Me

2 Corinthians 13:14 “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

What God has done for us, he does not because we’ve got it coming. He owes us nothing. Everything he does for us is a gift. That is “grace.” Even the concept of “gift” we hold in our heads may not fully do justice to the word “grace.” At Christmas, on our birthdays, at celebrations of milestones such as weddings or graduations, we expect to receive a gift. Maybe we don’t think of these as a direct payment for something we have done. And yet, isn’t there sometimes a sense that we are owed a gift because of the occasion?  They may not be a direct payment, but they feel like an entitlement. After all, haven’t we been good this year? Didn’t we achieve something by getting to this special day?

God’s grace is not that sort of a gift. It’s not for special occasions. It isn’t based on long standing customs or traditions. He in no way connects it to our good behavior, like the parent threatening to take away the birthday presents when Junior is being naughty. I would compare it to a random act of kindness, but there isn’t anything random about it. He knows exactly whom he is loving and forgiving. He knows how little we deserve it. Still he loves us, still he is gracious to us, anyway. Our Lord wants you to be sure he is with you with his grace.

Why should you need such a reminder? The fact that we can remember how the word is defined doesn’t mean that we will live with a day to day awareness of the good things it brings us. Even we can be tempted to try to have God on our own terms. We would like to stand before God on our own record. I must admit that I can hardly keep from wincing when I hear otherwise Lutheran Christians protest, “But I am a good person!” They may be decent citizens from the world’s point of view, but do any of us really think that the all-seeing, all-knowing God is going to buy such a claim from any one of us?

Over 900 years ago St. Anselm warned people who took pride in their own shallow morality, “You have not yet considered how great your sin is.” We do well to take that warning to heart. We face constant propaganda for a more positive view of ourselves. The advertising industry keeps pumping us full of messages that say, “You deserve more!” “You deserve better!” Dozens of talk show hosts reaffirm the myth of basic human goodness. If it were true, you wouldn’t need the Lord Jesus to promise you his grace.

Many would say that I am terrible for denying you such a sense of personal pride. But that approach to God and to life is a terrible merry-go-round to get on, and hard to get off. There is no peace there, only a life that is relentlessly driven by the quest to be good enough. There is no freedom there, only slavery to a set of expectations that is always beyond our reach, if we are honest. There is no confidence that God loves you there, only a nagging fear that you are falling further behind on his demands.

I want to spare you of this. I want you to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Look at how Jesus gave! Was there ever a person, whether heartless Pharisee or public sinner, for whom Jesus ever wanted anything but the best and the kindest? Was there ever anyone he didn’t love with his whole heart? “While we were still sinners,” Paul assures us, “Christ died for us!” He fully intends to show that kind of favor to you for the rest of your life— no matter what you do! You cannot commit a sin so serious that he would no longer be willing to forgive it, or even wanting to forgive it. God has set his heart on you. In the life and death of Jesus that heart showed that no cost was too great to make you his own. Today he wants you to know that that same grace, that same gift, that same favor belongs to you without end.

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