Strangers In The Land Of Grace
May 7, 2019 1120
Grace is a core concept in the Bible, yet it is strange to us.
This may be because we live in a society that has the philosophy of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and as they say here in Swahili Africa, “mwaga mboga yangu nimwage Ugali yako”, that is, “spill my sauce and I will spill your main dish!”
And when we forgive, we cannot forget, even when we want to. Typically, when people forgive, they say, “I forgive you but you better not do it again.” Next time you may not be forgiven. We expect God’s forgiveness to function the same way because we project our human emotions onto God, expecting God to also struggle with emotions of anger and revenge.
Another reason we find it hard to understand God’s grace may be because we live in a perfectionist society, where there is a lot of optimism regarding human morality. We try to be good enough and are told if we try hard enough we can be.
No wonder we are strangers in the land of biblical grace.
Grace operates differently. To receive grace, we need to acknowledge our wretchedness and inability to be anything close to good. Then it is the power of unconditional forgiveness that produces a positive response in the heart of the forgiven sinner. Neither the threat of hellfire nor a thousand rules can motive the transformed attitude that comes from forgiveness.
Grace never tires
Biblical grace keeps no count of the number of times forgiveness is needed. Grace never says, “I forgive you but you better not do it again.” Grace never tires. No other text better depicts this unlimited grace than Matthew 18:21-22,
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Jesus is saying to just keep forgiving. This seems impossible to our human understanding. But this is the very heart of forgiveness that sinners are promised when they believe.
God’s forgiveness is not based on our promise to be good people, but on the atonement accomplished at the cross. That atonement was one time, and our sins – past, present and future – were dealt with once and for all.
Since we continue living in a body and environment ravaged by sin, we still need constant repentance. The life of a believer is marked with constant prayers of repentance that continue to affirm our dependence in Christ.
In turn, grace calls for us to forgive others, and is a part of Christ’s ongoing ministry of reconciliation.
Grace is both an invitation and a witness to a graceless world.
– Pr Bonifresh Muhollo