Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded,having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
– Philippians 2:1-4
I used to be guided by a jumbled mix of legalism and Christian culture. I used to think following Jesus meant spending all your time at ‘Christian’ actvities, or hanging out with your Christian friends. I thought it meant that when confronted with a tricky situation (should I date this non-Christian, is it okay for me to watch this movie, can I do xyz), I should look to Christian help books, inherited wisdom and what others had done before me. It meant reciting rote answers and neat explanations when confronted with the mess of the world. I thought Christian maturity was about how many ministries you led or how many hours you served.
But my faith was grounded in Jesus and his death on the cross. If you asked, I’d be able to explain grace and how God had shown mercy to me and how it changed my life now. I was just missing something, a key link. I would look at the cross and see God’s grace. Then I would look back at the world and somehow I couldn’t carry the grace shown to me at the cross over into how I viewed and treated others.
What if grace means what I think it means?
Grace means taking the cost on yourself – whatever it is. It means doing so with love and generosity. This is what Jesus did for us at the cross. He took the cost for this broken world and our broken lives. He did so with love and generosity, even though it meant his death.
Now I try to be guided by grace. I try to look to Jesus at the cross, and what he did for me. Now I take the cost for others. It’s not easy, and I’m not very good at it. But it’s better than anything else.
But we live in the world like there’s no grace. Or that it means something different to what it meant at the cross. It’s especially heartbreaking in Christians. We live by rules and forget the grace. It becomes us vs them, black and white -gays are bad, muslims are bad, immigrants are bad. We belittle and other and dehumanize each other until we forget Jesus made us all and came to restore us all. We become stingy and guarded – this is my land, my life, my rights, my view on this or that. We forget that Jesus lived generously, giving of himself until he had nothing to give.
I am still working out what that means in ‘real life.’ But I think it means showing grace and generosity in whatever ways we can. For me, when I vote soon, it will mean using my vote to represent those who don’t get heard, who have no voice and so need our grace and generosity. It means looking to the good of others before myself.
This isn’t an easy calling, and it will be hard for those who haven’t experienced God’s grace to comprehend. I say this only because I know I had a hard time comprehending this sacrifical way of living until recently. Nothing I have said here is new or groundbreaking, except that it was new and groundbreaking for me when I realized it.
If I was to compare my new way of thinking with my old way of thinking, I would say this is a ‘generous faith’ where I use to have a ‘stingy faith.’ This is a wide, big view of God and the world, where I used to a have a narrow bubble I was afraid of stepping out of, in case it all popped and fell apart. But the good news is, grace means what I think it means. Grace means God taking the cost for me. It means God showering love on me generously, where I don’t deserve it. It means I can now do the same to others, because of the grace shown to me at the cross. Grace means grace. God is good.