Summary: Part 9 in series, Love Never Dies, this message looks at how we receive and give grace.
Love Never Dies, prt. 9
Wildwind Community Church
I want to talk to you about grace this morning. But before I do that, I want to talk to you about…marijuana.
1. Years ago when Bill Clinton was facing criticism that he had smoked pot in college, remember what he said? He said he sucked the smoke into his mouth but “did not inhale.” That line’s a classic, isn’t it? Whether you believe this or not (and I suspect most don’t), Clinton was onto something. If you don’t inhale, there is no effect. If you don’t inhale, nothing happens – in the end, you’re just blowing smoke.
2. To be Christian is to believe – at least in our heads – that the world is filled with grace – that it is everywhere. That God is moving and active and alive – that (perhaps like smoke) his grace fills every room, every situation, every nation. Anybody old enough to remember the Cheech and Chong movies? I apologize for using pot imagery here in talking about God, I know that’s really weird, but I’m thinking of those pictures of those guys sitting in that van just completely filled with smoke. You know there’s no chance whatsoever that they’re not taking in a LOT of that smoke if they stay there for even a couple of minutes. To be a Christian is to believe – again, at least in our heads – that we’re walking through a world that is completely permeated by grace. And yet, by and large, both in the past and in the present, Christians are not normally people who are regularly exhaling grace onto others. We’re exhaling lots of things, no doubt about it, but grace is unfortunately not one of them far too often. That means that a lot of people, regardless of what they claim to believe, are just blowing smoke. You cannot exhale something unless you have first inhaled it. You cannot give what you do not have. You cannot take others to where you have not been. You cannot pass on to others what you have not received.
3. There are many Christians who have noticed this problem and are working hard, with good intentions, to correct it. The problem is that many Christians, though well-intentioned, do not regularly live in the stream of grace. They are not inhaling, so to speak. They are not taking grace and love into their lives, therefore no matter how hard they try, they cannot adequately breathe it out. They’re blowing smoke. If what we take in is creeds and doctrines and rules and convictions, then we will pass on to others creeds and doctrines and rules and convictions, and nothing more. If what we take in is an ongoing experience of God’s presence – of God’s love, God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, God’s sufficiency – then that is what will come out of us. It cannot be any other way.
Matthew 12:35 (NIV)
35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
4. I begin with this today because we need to see that passing grace to other people is not something that should require effort. In fact, if it requires effort, then it is not grace. Grace is not something we bestow to others, or give or grant to them. It is something we exhale upon them. It is the natural result of what we are inhaling, what we are receiving, what we are taking in. If you fill your mind and heart with striving and perfectionism, you will require it of others. If you don’t forgive yourself for being flawed and broken, you will not be able to allow others to be flawed and broken either. If you see God as requiring you to be better before he will love you, then you will expect others to be better before God can love them. You will find yourself constantly disappointed in people, always let down whenever you realize that here’s one more broken person, one more person who doesn’t have it together. And on days when you are doing well at meeting your own standards for yourself, you’ll feel great about yourself and probably look down all the more on others, thinking, “I’ve got it together, what’s the matter with you?” Then, even if you do try to grant grace, you’ll see it as benevolent, wonderful you giving to someone else something they don’t deserve and this will make you feel one up and superior. Grace CANNOT be given with effort because when effort is required, the very effort we are making puts the focus back on us and our efforts and then whatever is given is not grace.