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“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
My favorite definition of the Biblical term “grace,” which I have shared often in my sermons, is this: an undeserved gift given by an unobligated giver. At its heart, grace is a gift given by someone who owes nothing to someone who deserves nothing. Consider the alternatives:
When a husband gives to his loving wife a necklace for Christmas, that is a deserved gift given by an obligated giver – she deserves to be loved, and he owes her love as her husband.
When a parent loves a difficult and rebellious child, that love may be undeserved, but the parent is still under an obligation to love, because they are the parents.
When a church member gives a gift of appreciation to their Bible study leader, the gift is deserved, because the Bible study leader has prepared and led well, but it is also unobligated, since it is not required of members to give anything.
But when a holy God, who can not stand the presence of sin, does not condemn rebellious humans to an eternity of separation from God and all that is good, but instead sends the eternal Son of God down to earth in human form to experience all the suffering of the world and to die an unjust, sacrificial death on the cross so that we might receive eternal life, forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, adoption as children of God, and God’s Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, that is the pinnacle of grace. An undeserved gift, since we deserved nothing but condemnation. An unobligated giver, since a holy God owed us nothing. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
True stories of grace tend to be the stories that move us the most. A mother forgives the drunk driver who killed her child. A woman shows an act of kindness to another woman who has treated her rottenly. And the more undeserving the recipient is, the more other-worldly the grace becomes.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, and as we prepare for the Christmas season, consider the grace that God has shown to you. Reflect on just how undeserving you are of the gifts you have received, and on how the holy God of this universe owes you nothing. Marvel again at the incarnation, how the Son of God took on flesh and walked this earth and felt our pain and bore our sin on the cross. And then go and do likewise, showing grace to those in your life, especially to the least deserving, that the grace of God might shine brightly through you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ’sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ’sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ’sinners’ lend to ’sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:32-36).
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