By Grace

February 5, 2010


I love Jesus. In fact, I try to follow him on a daily basis. If you were putting me in a religious category, you would call me a Christian.

Pretty much everyone either knows that or assumes that. I do believe there are a couple of people who are not so sure. Maybe because I don’t listen to the right kind of music or read the right kind of books or wear the right kind of clothes. I don’t speak in Bible verses or quote theologians regularly. But the truth is I’ve known a lot of Christians who dress the part, talk the part, listen and read the part, wear a cross around their necks and then go on to do some pretty atrocious things. Obviously that’s not usually the case, but I figure there are better indicators of faithfulness out there…or “in” there.

Salvation through Jesus isn’t about clothing or music or books. It’s not even about walking the Roman Road, learning the ABC’s or understanding a Bridge Diagram. It’s not about praying a certain set of words a certain way in a certain place. It’s not about anything we do at all. The only thing that ever can save us is the abundant, overwhelming, loving grace of God. Period. No bullet points, no lists of rules.

That’s uncomfortable for some, impossible for others. We like rules. We like to-do lists and qualifications. A lot of us are pretty comfortable with the idea that some are in and others are out. I’ve met people who like the idea of an angry judge, separating the sheep from the goats (see, I’m not ignorant of that Bible passage. I’ve read it lots of times as I’ve considered grace and judgment. Matthew 25 is a hard passage).

“You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. Ephesians 2:1-10

“So does that mean everyone goes to heaven?” a sixth grade girl asked me once after we read the above passage. “Does anyone go to hell?” (She’s a pretty smart sixth grader.)

‘I don’t know.” Was my reply. Who am I to put limitations on God’s grace or try to figure out where the line is drawn. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not by your own doing (v. 8).” What is grace if it doesn’t come freely? Teenagers, it turns out, like lines. They like to figure out black and white areas. I was there once. As I get older, I’m more aware of the grey areas. There are things I don’t know and don’t understand.

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:1-4

So what do I believe and teach about that? Well, I don’t believe that grace given freely means I can just do whatever I want and nothing matters. As a follower of Jesus, a teacher of God’s word, and a shepherd of children and teenagers, I am aware of the call to walk in “newness of life.” I’m aware that as a follower, connected to the Vine of Jesus I am called to bear fruit with my life.

I hope I do.

It’s true I listen to a variety of music and have a problem with classifying my music as “Christian” or “Secular.” I take in a variety of media from various sources. I tend to be a lot more liberal than a lot of my Christian friends. I don’t feel the need to make every blog post, facebook update or even every youth group meeting explicitly “Christian.” And it’s true, I make my share of mistakes and bad decisions, I won’t argue with that. It’s possible that I’m doing it all wrong.

I do believe and hope that as much as possible, my motives, my decisions and my actions may glorify God. I hope that this is the reason that people assume or understand that I am a Christian–not a cross around my neck or the fact that I work in a church, but because they see the work and call of God in my life.

Or because they see a hopeful sinner, overwhelmed by God’s grace-full love.

2 responses to By Grace

  1. Dana Guess-Chumbler February 6, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    This is wonderful. You are awesome. My struggle is that I feel so disconnected to those in a church. I feel I cannot be myself. I feel so connected to God's grace when I am in my office with a poor child who is struggling with parents who are making poor decisions. In those moments,I can feel God so closely with me.

  2. Dana, and *that's* wonderful. That you feel God in those moments. I think it's the Church's shortcoming that you feel you cannot be yourself. I dream of a church that doesn't suffocate people, doesn't make us put on masks when we walk in the door and understands what grace really is. Not that I've figured all that out just yet.

    🙂