Summary: Using texts from 1 Corintians 3:1-6, and 2 Corinthians 9:8-11, this message contrasts graceless behavior with that of a "Grace-giver."
How to be a Grace-Giver
1 Cor.3:1-6, 2 Cor. 9:8-11
“Grace moments”, if we think hard enough we can remember some of them. These are the times when we either received grace from some gracious person, known or unknown, or times when we extended grace to others. I remember a grace moment one morning when I got a call from Susan on a cell phone. You see, Susan doesn’t own a cell phone, but on that day when she was driving to work and the tread on one of her tires disintegrated on the freeway a gracious man with a cell phone pulled over behind her and made his phone available to her. He waited until he knew I was on the way and then headed for work. It took about 15 minutes of his time and the cost of a cellular call, but he extended grace to my family, and I was grateful he had been handy.
I also remember a grace moment when I helped an elderly man change a tire on his car. It only took ten minutes, but I was glad to help, and he and his wife were glad that he, with a weak heart, didn’t have to wrestle with a tire.
Grace can come in so many ways, helping the person in the grocery line pay for groceries when they are short on cash, the needed chore or fix-it job, baby-sitting, helping someone to celebrate a special event, relieving a burden, sharing grief or pain, jump-starting a car, these are all ways that grace can be infused in to the mundane tedium of life. It always arrives like a breath of fresh air on a stifling hot day, or like a cool drink of water to parched lips.
1. The Lack of Grace:
On the other hand, I’ve also lived through graceless moments, and I can testify that they have a way of sucking the life right out of us. These are times that put clamps on our spirits and make us feel like we are suffocating. Inconsiderate, disrespectful, out to hurt, Graceless events always seem to come at the worst possible moment. They attempt to snatch all notions of faith, hope, and love right out of us and replace them with doubt, suspicion, and anger.
The apostle Paul knew about graceless moments. Even though he was the trailblazing pioneer of the Corinthian church, this particular group brought him loads of heartache. Despite the fact that he had been the first to bring the gospel to Corinth, the Christians there had fallen prey to more than one smooth-talking critic during his absence. The Corinthian Christians frequently ran high on expectations and low on grace for anything which concerned their founding pastor. In fact, a closer look at this congregation reveals much about what happens when we choose to live without grace.
A. Without grace, labels abound:
Oh how the Corinthians loved to label. Strung hard around Paul’s neck were long-distance labels that read, “poor speaker,” “Unpopular,” “Pushy letter writer,” “Bold in print - weak in presence.” Let’s face it, labels can be powerful, and powerfully painful. We tend to place all kinds of labels on people every day, even in church.
Think about these labels, “legalistic,” “liberal,” “conservative,” “stingy,” “worldly,” “prideful,” “pushy.” We hurriedly slap the tag “wild” on motivated teens, “selfish” on those who disagree with us, “show-off” on people who prosper, and “uncommitted” on those whose agendas differ from ours. The younger people say the older ones are “stuck in their ways,” while the seasoned citizens say the “youngins’” are “immature.” And the real tragedy is that neither side takes the time to befriend and honestly inquire enough to truly know the other side.
When we label a person we combine two devastating forces. In essence, we judge and we measure according to our own set of scales and balances (Matt. 7:1-2). In addition to judging, we give up on hope. In effect we say to the person we label, “This is the way you are and will always be. I have no hope for you to change. I will view you through this label forever and always think of you in light of it. I have you all figured out. Any questions?”
B. Without grace, comparisons emerge:
Early in the history of the church, her members drew lines in the sand and began to choose sides. Instead of being in awe of the person of Christ, they chose to be awestruck by the personalities who sought to represent Him. Playing favorites, some said, “I am on Paul’s side, He is our founder.” (Paul, Paul, He’s our man....) Others said, “Apollos is our man. He can really preach!” Still others, seeking to out-awe them all would pontificate, “Well, I am of Christ!”