We don’t know what to do with grace. We reject it as the free gift that it is and try to earn it. We’re embarrassed when we can’t repay something. Being “beholden” to another. Owing them. Last night I watched Les Miserable (again) and my heart sunk as Javert struggled to live “in the debt of a thief”, and “mocked” as the Law. The grace extended to him by ValJean poured shame over his head rather than freedom. It was a curse rather a blessing because he was unable to accept it as a blessing.
We also may hesitate to extend grace because we are afraid that it will be taken advantage of. I listened yesterday as a man in a mentoring role described his concern that he go too far with grace. That those he mentors will exploit that and fall into passivity and apathy. Afraid of grace.
Makes sense. I’ve felt that in raising young children. There is the fear that if I give them too much freedom to make their own decisions in life, well, that they’ll make all the wrong ones. And if I’m honest… Is my concern a pure hearted parental drive that I care for them soooooo much that I want the absolute best for them. Or… Can I admit that I fear losing control?
Lavish grace throws people off. It’s not the way we think. Our country, and the Midwest particularly, prides itself on being do-it-yourself-ers. At Home Depot last week I overheard a man boasting to a friend that just as his dad gave him no assistance and let him work hard to get where he was, that he was going to give his young daughter the same opportunity. She was standing there and was obviously thrilled as her dad described jobs she was beginning to pick up already. Obviously his initiative. She was maybe 10. Really? Teaching responsibility is one thing. Independence is great. But he was reeeeally proud that he wasn’t one of those lame parents who plan to help their children financially.
We don’t always know what to do with grace. And this problem is not unique to our country and era. People two thousand years ago didn’t know what to do with Jesus’ grace either. Many of the virtuous of his time condemned him for his passivity toward the Law and carelessness with whom he associated. But, for those humble and needy enough to receive it, the opportunity to live in freedom and joy was now a possibility. They no longer had anything to prove. They had already admitted their incapacity to prove anything and in the process had received everything: eternal life, forgiveness, and freedom now to live generously, honestly, and to give and receive love unhindered.
What to do with grace?