Friday, August 21, 2009

The Grace Correlation

Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.

                        Romans 5.20

Plenty Plus

As ministers in largely underprivileged areas, my parents never knew from day to day how many would come through their door, eat at their table, or end up sleeping under their roof. They stocked the house with plenty, plus added supplies for any unexpected needs. On rare occasions when just our immediate family sat down to dinner, Mom prepared extra in case the doorbell rang mid-meal. We stored enough linens and towels to quarter a small army. Out of genuine concern, my parents sought to allay reluctance or guilt on the part of those seeking help by honestly telling them, “Don’t worry. There’s more than enough.” They wanted their home to be a place where distraught people knew they could receive help without hesitation.

It mattered not if their needs were passing or permanent, minor or major. Some stayed for coffee and moved on. Others stayed for weeks and months, and several remained with us for years. Regardless, it was most important that anyone who turned our way felt confident plenty was available, plus more for others coming behind. And while my parents always feel honored if someone expresses admiration for their generosity and care, they’re also chagrined by it. As they see it, their plenty-plus strategy reflects the abundance of grace described in Romans 5.20: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”

God’s Privilege

It’s God’s privilege to answer our deficiencies with more than we’ll ever need. Nothing we’ve done—or will ever do—can possibly exhaust His grace. Of course, His boundless grace doesn’t release us to disobey recklessly and flagrantly. Paul opens Romans 6 with this: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” God promises grace to offset our doubts of its availability and remove our reticence to ask for it. Hebrews 4.16 encourages us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” We have no cause to hesitate in coming to our Father for forgiveness or trusting His grace to rectify our situation. His assurance to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12.9 is equally valid for us: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Beyond grace we need, however, we also recognize there’s also more than enough for those around us. Sadly, we’ll suffer injuries unconscionably inflicted by others. As we grope for explanations why they hurt us so deeply, knowing God’s grace remains as available to them as us permits us to release them to His care. Furthermore, while only God has the authority to pardon sin, forgiveness is an ability He shares with us. And He expects us to use it. When we can’t summon grace to forgive on our own, we ask for—and receive—added grace. We will never reach for more grace and come back empty-handed, because the greater the wrongs against us, the greater grace God places at our disposal. Where sin increases, grace increases all the more.

Too Powerful to Ignore

The grace correlation to sin is based on a plenty-plus coefficient—an x multiplier that guarantees God’s grace is always greater than wrong. This makes grace too powerful to ignore. Wherever we see weakness, in others or us, we also find grace in surplus. We can’t afford to allow sin to blind us to the grace that surpasses it. In Ephesians 4.7, we read, “To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” Grace we seek has been pre-measured for our needs. This takes righteousness out of the equation. There’s nothing we or anyone else must do to merit grace because the work has already been done through Christ’s sacrifice. When we look at our deficits, we see more than enough grace to remedy them. When we look at failures in others, we realize God supplies more than enough grace to compensate for them.

Disregarding Christ’s commandment to love God and others is inexcusable. Yet vulnerability to temptation is also inescapable. In spite of our best efforts, we yield to human logic and cravings. We overlook pressing needs to pursue selfish desires. We bow to peer pressure. We trip over weakness. We revert to unhealthy attitudes and habits. Every time, we impulsively sink into self-condemning despair, promising never to do it again. But our promises aren’t powerful and reliable enough to overcome our frailties. That’s why God promises His grace. It’s the only promise we can depend on to be greater than our sin.

No matter how greatly sin proliferates, grace will always be greater.

(Tomorrow: Shoeless Moe)

2 comments:

Luke said...

THANKS FOR THIS MESSAGE. REALLY ENJOYED IT.

Tim said...

Thanks in return, Luke, for your kindness. We all need more grace, and knowing there's no shortage for our situations is something we can't be reminded of too often.

It's always a joy to hear from you. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Blessings,
Tim