God’s initiative of grace revealed both in the Old and New Testaments demands a response. Unfortunately, too many of us respond to God’s grace in the wrong way. We want grace for ourselves and justice for others. We want leniency in applying judgment to our thoughts and deeds, but we want God to rain down judgment on those with whom we disagree—our real enemies and our virtual opponents.
If grace is the central element of God’s initiative toward us, we had best give attention to that grace. That attention, however, cannot relate only to our personal need for grace and God’s desire that we welcome and embrace that grace. For many people, the response to God’s grace solely consists of professing faith in Jesus Christ, the One who embodied God’s gift of grace. Grace for these people is a free lunch, and no one refuses a free lunch—unless there is a catch attached to it. And there is a BIG catch with grace! Those who welcome God’s grace solely for themselves are accepting the free lunch without recognizing the catch—grace brings with it the radical demand that we become gracious toward others in the same way that God has been gracious with us.
The classic teaching of Jesus that draws the connection between our receiving grace and the kind of response that grace demands from us is Matthew 18:21-35. Jesus told a parable in response to Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” Peter welcomed grace from his “Lord,” and he was even willing to show a limited amount of grace toward a “brother” who had sinned against him. Peter, however, had not yet recognized the cost of the grace he was receiving—the death of God’s Son on the cross—and he certainly didn’t realize what an obligation that great sacrifice placed on him as a recipient of costly grace.
Those who find comfort in “once saved, always saved” need to remember the conclusion of this parable from Jesus. Ultimately the grace we receive will be in proportion to the grace we have offered others. We grossly underestimate the cost of grace when we accept it selfishly for ourselves and then raise great hurdles that keep others from experiencing it. Column 4 in the Making Disciples Chart highlights the response we must make to God’s grace if we would be disciples of Jesus.
NOTE: The “Making Disciples” chart is available to you via email. Send an email message to: firstname.lastname@example.org.