Faith, expressing itself through love, is the grace others need from us.
I didn’t grow up committed to learning the Bible or following Christ. I pretty much went my own way throughout my childhood, and especially my teenage years. I still remember what it feels like to not be a Christian.
I think that people who have a past where they didn’t live by grace but only looked out for themselves have a temptation to embrace strict rules when they become Christians. They know what it feels like to not have Jesus in their lives, so they sometimes can go beyond Scripture and impose standards on themselves, and then others, to keep on the straight and narrow.
If, and when, that happens, the Apostle Paul has something to say about it. Embracing certain practices to obtain or maintain righteousness mean nothing in God’s kingdom. Here is how Paul put it, for the church who went down the path of strict outward rule-keeping:
“You people who are trying to be made righteous by the Law have been estranged from Christ. You have fallen away from grace! We eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness through the Spirit by faith. Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t matter in Christ Jesus, but faith working through love does matter.” (CEB)
Christianity which ignores God’s grace in favor of controlling one’s own faith through certain rules is no Christianity at all, and Paul would have nothing to do with it. His position was clear and pointed:
“You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.” (CEB)
Grace is the currency in God’s kingdom, flowing freely through love. God has your back. His grace forgives, and never runs out. His love endures and never withdraws. When we get a hold of this essential and beautiful truth about God, the only rule we want to keep is the continuing debt to love one another.
So, are there any practices, rules, beliefs, or doctrines which you hold to that you impose on yourself which are burdensome to you? Why do you do them? Do you expect others to do so? What would change if you threw grace and love in the mix?
Gracious God, your love has extended so far as to give your one and only Son on our behalf. Through Jesus, I embrace the faith and love gifted to me through his redeeming work. Help me to daily die to myself and my propensity for outward rule-keeping, and to live the gracious life you died to procure for me. Amen.