Someone once asked me the question: “What fires you up with so much passion that you’d stay up half the night talking about it?” Actually, there are a whole heap of things, all related to Jesus and His beautiful Body the Church. But a dynamic that I often find myself pondering afresh is the reality of grace: freely we have received; freely we must give.
Grace: it mesmerises and woos me.
Grace can’t be deserved. It can’t be bought. It can’t be manipulated into existence. We can never be good enough to receive it and we can’t repay it. We shouldn’t even try. Grace is, quite simply, a gift. Very often it’s an expensive gift to the giver. But it’s completely free to receive. It has to be.
Anyone can give and expect a return. Anyone can do a good thing, if they’re going to be thanked for it. Anyone can be kind when others are kind first or in response. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:46). But living for Jesus and grappling to do life with the values and principles of His Kingdom, rather than the accepted norms of our broken world, means that we’re called to give freely even as we’ve received freely. We’re called to be gracious, regardless of what situation we’re giving into and whatever response we may or may not receive.
To be clear, I’m not talking here about the reality of the need for boundaries, especially in situations of vulnerability or abuse. What I am talking about is the challenge for us, as disciples of Jesus, to live lives of grace that pour blessing and goodness out upon any and all those around us. It’s so very contra to what we too often see around us. Because, ultimately, at its very source, it is given by God.
So many earthy cultures (especially in my Western context) are obsessed by not wanting to feel ‘taken for granted’ or ‘taken for a ride’ or ‘being taken advantage of’. We’re taught to defend our ‘rights’ and protect ourselves, to ‘look after number one’ – i.e. ourselves. We’re fed the lie that ‘taking’ is strong but ‘receiving’ is weak. But that so is not the Jesus way. And the world doesn’t understand grace. It makes people uncomfortable. They don’t want to feel beholden or in debt to another. But God’s grace is utterly unconditional. All we have to do is be humble enough to receive it. And courageous enough to pass it on.
It seems to me that one of the most challenging things Jesus tells His followers - and requiring the most obvious supernatural power of His Holy Spirit to obey - is to ‘love your enemies’. In so many tiny and enormous ways, every day, this is the challenge to offer grace into situations that frankly don’t deserve it. To be gracious to people who don’t deserve it. Because that’s the very definition of grace. And this is what Jesus gives us. Repeatedly. Constantly.
I find this so very challenging but, I also long to be welcoming and love that this is one of the key foundations that Ellel Ministries is built upon. I long for us, God’s children, wherever we find ourselves, to be a generous people. Beyond generous. I long for myself and my family to
be open-handed and giving. Into any and every context. It may be costly. Probably, it always will be costly. But it’s also incredibly freeing.
In studying Leviticus many years ago, I remember becoming acutely aware that everything we have and everything we are and everything we ‘own’ is actually God’s. The world says ‘cling’, ‘mine’, ‘gather more’. The Kingdom says freely you’ve received and freely you should give. And, when we do, when we can prise our fingers off our stuff, even from our very lives, there’s utter freedom in giving. God is our Father in Heaven, and His economics are waaaaaay different to what the cultures of our world would tell us. What a privilege to be invited to partake in the great Jesus manifesto to overwhelm the world with grace!
So, let’s give graciously: kindness, encouragement, empathy, wisdom, stuff. And let’s give open-handedly. Let’s not give in such a way as makes others feel beholden. Let’s not give with strings attached. Let’s not demand a ‘return’ from whatever we offer ‘out there’. Let’s just give. In the name of Jesus.
Prayer: Oh Lord. Please give us whatever we need to live gracious lives. Please fill us with Your Spirit afresh, so that we may trust You and Your provision in such a way that conquers our fear of not having ‘enough’ for ourselves, that stands against our world that would have us protect ourselves, and that binds us to Your loving, giving Self rather than any other thing in all creation. Please would you free us and heal us so that we might live lives that pour Your grace above all. Amen.
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