Reactions to grace

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When someone sees clearly for the first time the implications of grace – that their sins are forgiven unconditionally, absolutely and eternally, that there is nothing they can do to earn it and God doesn’t even require them to pay him back – they usually have one of two reactions: joy or anger.

The reason for joy is obvious. As in the parable, they have found a priceless treasure that is worth giving everything for: “In his joy [he] went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44). They have found the best thing they could ever find: they can know God now, be fully known and fully accepted by the one who will love them forever, and never fear rejection ever again!

The reason for anger is not so obvious. A classic example is found in the parable of the prodigal son. When the younger brother who has squandered his family’s wealth on prostitutes is welcomed back by the father with open arms, the other brother becomes angry:

“The elder brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends’” (Luke 15:28-29).

The reason the elder brother was angry at the father’s grace is because all those years of hard work and heavy labour in order to gain his father’s acceptance were for nothing. If grace is free, then it pierces your pride in your own good works to the heart – you have no offering to come to God with and earn his favour. If it’s all for free, then “Where is boasting? It is excluded” (Romans 3:27).

It helps to remember when you encounter someone who is made angry by grace that it is God they are angry at. It is anger that someone else would get something for free that they have tried so hard to earn, and anger that all their striving and good works were for nothing.

For reflection:

Grace always gets a reaction. If someone just says, “Hmm, that’s interesting”, they haven’t got it yet. But if someone says, “Isn’t this grace stuff going just a little too far?”, then you’re getting somewhere.

God’s grace is absolute, unconditional, abundant and extravagent. When God does something, he does it to the extreme. If he says it is all for free, and we are set free, then he means it is as free as you can get!

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36)

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