Today I hear the words running through my mind, “More grace, God. More grace!” It’s not as if I received a meager portion, and need to beg like some street urchin.
“Please, sir, I want some more.” ~ Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist.
If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, perhaps you remember the responses to the child’s request. The old, black and white version of the movie incorporated over-acted, horrified gasps at the mere thought of asking for more. I’m thankful God isn’t like that. When we get to know who he really is in the pages of the Bible, we can trust God to be loving and generous.
As I explore the economy of grace, I stumble upon this:
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7 NIV
If I’m honest, really gut-level honest, I can admit that the “At one time” reference in verse 3 is not as “once upon a time” as I’d like. There are days I am still “foolish, deceived and enslaved”—though I wish it weren’t so. I envy my friends’ seemingly easy lives (I find mine to be a little more on the chaotic side of the scale), their lovely houses (mine always needs some kind of repair), and their quiet cars (mine could use a new muffler). See what a brat I can be?
It’s not to the degree it once was, if you can believe that. I have grown a bit in the area of being satisfied, but I haven’t arrived yet when it comes to mastering a good portion of my heart and mind. I imagine I’m not the only one in that place. Truth is, I tend to think I was worse, and now I am better.
As if there were a measuring stick for goodness or badness.
As if my own efforts meant I could be any better in the sight of God.
Verse 5: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared he saved us.” Keep reading. Nothing we did or could ever do has anything to do with this! The beginning, the cause of this grace, was kindness and love. The loving, gentle, moved heart of God brought Jesus to this world (John 3:16). With every possible reason to condemn our rebellion, he chose mercy (Titus 3:5).
Can we just sit with that for a minute?
Our world runs so diametrically opposed to this. When we behave badly, we expect consequences. And, actually, God doesn’t withhold those. But, think about this:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 NIV
“[W]hen we were still powerless.” Some versions use other words: weak, still without strength, helpless. “Christ died for the ungodly.” (5:6b) “While we were still sinners” (5:8a).
Honestly, when I think about Jesus beaten and whipped to the point of being barely recognizable as a man, the horrible pain and suffering—
It was for me, a rebel.
The hammer that pounded the nails through his hands and feet—
The rough-hewn, oily wooden handle feels awfully sickening in my hand.
The Grace Economy.
Love, kindness, and mercy leads to excruciating sacrifice—for the enemy.
And the enemy is loved and given an invaluable gift…at no cost…because it can’t be bought.
I think I need to sit with that.