I had the privilege of preaching on my last Sunday and I got to talk a little bit about one of my favorite expressions:
Grace is like breath.
I have been using it for so many years, I don’t even know where I got it. But it has proven to be unbelievably deep metaphor.
But Sunday I focused on one aspect: For grace to be experienced, you must both give and receive it. You can not breathe by inhaling or exhaling alone. You need both. Grace works the same way. We do not fully experience it when we don’t give it away.
But I think it is worth nothing that we also can’t give it away if we aren’t truly receiving it.
I think often the people who are hesitant to give grace are the ones who are not really experiencing it. Grace has become simply an idea or a doctrine or something nice to talk about. But grace is a reality to be experienced. It is a way of life. When we don’t experience grace in this way, it becomes much harder to give it away.
A couple of examples of this:
In college, I remember having a huge fight with one of my friends. I had just given up the party scene and that world was still very fresh in my mind. We were talking about someone who had just gotten caught up in the party scene, and my friend made all sorts of wild assumptions about this person because they were partying. I was so upset because I knew this person had no idea. My friend was well-intentioned, but had never done anything wrong in their entire life. My friend couldn’t understand that world because they had never experienced grace at rock bottom.
Now, do I think my friend needed to go do stupid things to make up for it? Of course not. But perhaps it is good to be around people caught in destructive behaviors, because we can see what kind of effect grace really has.
Secondly, it has been my experience that the people who spend the most time telling others they are going to hell, live with a constant fear that they themselves might go to hell. They believe the Christian faith is about getting it right and measuring up. And they know themselves – they don’t. So they live with this constant fear that God is angry at them and just waiting for them to screw up.
Life then becomes a comparison game. As long as I can find people who are worse than I am, I can be very vocal about their evil ways and I might just sneak by.
The point of grace is that we are free to own how deeply we get it wrong. It is an acute awareness and honesty about how we don’t measure up. But grace seeks to move us beyond that. Grace meets us where we are and offers a better way.
So to me, the means a few things if we take grace seriously:
We need to be around more people with deep struggles. We need to put ourselves in position to offer grace to those who need it in their darkest moments, rather than kicking them while they are down. Instead of telling people how awful they are because of their choices, maybe we should begin to understand them as people. Maybe we need to learn the story behind those choices. And maybe we should offer grace instead of stones.
Secondly, maybe we need to give more grace to all the people who are hurling the stones. My guess is that is a pretty unhappy way to live. It driven by fear and a constant sense of inadequacy. Perhaps those people may need deep and intimate grace more than those they’re hurling stones at. Perhaps they need to be reminded that their value and worth has nothing to do with getting it right. It comes from the one that made and loves them.
That’s the power of truly experiencing grace.
Do you have stories of grace? I’d love to hear them!