Saturday, May 28, 2011

What Are You Doing with Grace?

Reflecting on experiences of grace from the past obviously can have a significant influence on how we understand ourselves. The danger in spiritual reflection, however, is that we will bask in grace and be untouched by its accompanying obligations. “Obligations?” you say. “Grace creates obligations?” Well, “Yes!”

Grace may be freely given, but it is not free. It always costs something. The one who extends, offers, or dispenses grace gives up something in making grace possible. Grace often sets aside fairness, justice, rights, equality, or self-interests in order to benefit another.

Some of Jesus’ most powerful teachings were directed at people who experienced grace but were unchanged by it. Matthew 18:23-35 is a classic expression of sacrificial generosity that lays an obligation upon the recipients of grace. The obligation is not to repay the cost of the grace received. The obligation is to pass on the grace to others.

So, what are you doing with grace? How is grace shaping you, changing you, growing you, improving you, transforming you? What is grace forcing you to deny? What is it inviting you to embrace? What is grace teaching you about yourself and about others? What is grace birthing within you? What is it putting to death?

Grace sets us free, but that freedom is not focused on personal rights or benefits. Instead grace frees us from self-centeredness and selfishness. With grace, living is no longer solely about us. It is about loving God and loving others—deeply, devotedly, unselfishly, sacrificially.

Spiritual reflection that only consumes grace but never passes it on is worthless. We dig deeper into ourselves—our past and our present—in search for true grace; but once we find it, we must release it to others. Like the manna in the wilderness, grace cannot be saved, stored, warehoused, or banked. We must give it away, pass it on, feed it to others, invest it in those who have not yet found it.

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