Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Balance Between Grace and Responsibility

Grace is quite amazing isn't it? To receive something that was not earned, that was not merited, something simply given out of mercy, what better way is there to show love? I doubt that many people stop and truly think about the reality of grace in their lives, despite whether they are Christians or not. Matthew 5:45 expresses this very idea,
"For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Just think of the simple ways God's grace is manifested daily. Do you have any power within yourself to keep your own heart beating, the very muscle that sustains life? Have you any power within yourself to wake up in the morning and start a new day? Sure, you set the alarm clock, but who's to say if it will or will not go off? God's grace is the very reason we are able to do anything, but sadly His grace is highly susceptible of becoming distorted in one of two ways. Either it is completely neglected, or it is completely taken advantage of.

The first doesn't need much explanation. The ones who ignore God's grace are the ones who ignore His very existence. Ah, but the one who takes advantage of His grace, that's where the line becomes unclear. Finding the balance between God's grace and human responsibility, that's where the difficulty lies. I hope I didn't confuse anyone into thinking that I'm referring to the doctrine of election, where grace and responsibility are often seemingly incompatible. This isn't a Calvinist apologetic post. Rather, I'm referring to where we as Christians must identify where God's grace "ends" and where our responsibility and self-discipline begins, specifically in our pursuit of holiness.

Because we define ourselves as Christians, logically there was a time when we realized that only God's grace could save us. We've come to terms with the fact that in and of ourselves, we can not do anything, even things as simple as breathing! We've acknowledged the necessity of God's grace for everyday living. This is the correct approach to grace. However, this can lead to a misconception that we can do nothing, period. Not only can we do things, but we must do things. As a rebelutionary, I cry loudly that we should and must do things, do hard things.

When grace is given, it seems that the natural approach for someone is this, "Well I could probably do better, but I know that God's grace is sufficient so I don't really have to push myself very far. I mean, I won't be perfect anyway so what's the point? God's grace will cover me." I couldn't say that this line of thinking is completely wrong. God's grace is sufficient and it's true that we will never be perfect, but that is not an excuse to not try. The bestowal of grace is not an excuse to lack in personal responsibility and self-discipline. When grace is given, the correct approach is not the one mentioned above, but one sounding more along these lines, "God's grace is sufficient for me. He has given it when I didn't and could never deserve it. Because He's shown such love to me, I can't help but reflect back that love. Though I know I'll never be perfect, because I love Him so much, I at least would like to try. Besides, I know that even in my failures, His grace is sufficient." See the difference? The first Christian is simply lazy, neglecting spiritual discipline by flashing the grace of God. This Christian will never do anything. Because they've figured(correctly) that they'll never be perfect, they've decided to not even try. The second is a believer in pursuit of holiness. Though he or she knows that there will never become a time of arriving, the pursuit remains because of their love for God.

So where must the line be drawn? We must accept that without God, we can do nothing. Then, after that realization, we must logically conclude that now that we are under God's grace, we can do anything in Christ. I've said it once before, we are not saved and done, we are saved and do.
We must forsake the misguided ideas of complacency that can develop when we take advantage of God's grace. Not only can we do things in Christ, we must do things in Christ. Whether it be practicing spiritual disciplines such as Bible study, Scripture memorization, and prayer, or if it is doing hard things for God, like missions work or witnessing, we should do them to glorify God because the one who bestows great mercy is the one who deserves great honor. Who has shown greater mercy than our Father? It must be our natural response then, to discipline ourselves for His glory, under the care of His grace, as we pursue in the likeness of His Son.

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