Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Grace Applied

The problem with accepting God's grace for ourselves is that He expects us to apply it to others. If He forgives us (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Acts 26:18), He expects us to forgive others (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13; Matthew 18:21-35). He does not judge us (Romans 8:33,34; John 3:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11), but based on that, He rebukes our judging others (James 4:11-12; Romans 2:1; 14:4). But we are called, as a result of the love God has shown us, to be transformed by the power of God working in us (Titus 2:11-14; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:14,15). With that, we are called to lovingly correct those who are going down the wrong path (Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Jude 22,23). This is difficult to fit together in dealing with people. It is easy to have a brittle self-righteousness, one that looks down on and abhors anyone who falls short of its standards. It is even easier to advocate total indulgence, which accepts any behavior as long it does not affect us. Though even in these extremes it is difficult to be consistent, because the self-righteous person does not really live up their standards and the indulgent person will normally find some behaviors they cannot accept. But to avoid the extremes requires work.

One of the issues involved in this is helping those in need. Scripture makes it clear that we are to do this (Proverbs 14:31; James 2:15-16; Matthew 25:31-46). But one of the common excuses for not doing it is feeling that these people deserve to be in need due to their life choices. They are lazy or addicted to alcohol or drugs, and that is why they are in need. Therefore we can refuse to help them, knowing they have brought this on themselves. Now it needs to be stated from the outset that this view is simplistic. It is a a Job's comforter type of approach to assume that if you are suffering, it is your own fault. Scripture repeatedly denies this (John 9:1-3; 16:33; James 1:2-4). But even if it is their fault, grace would require us to help them. Now Scripture does prescribe a work ethic (2 Thessalonians 3:10; Ephesians 4:28; Proverbs 6:6-11). But we are all sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) who are saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9). However, we are saved, not because sin is tolerated, but because it is paid for (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Now it is not always easy to know how best to bring these truths to bear in a specific situation. We need to help people, but if possible we need to help them back onto their feet so they can earn their own living. But we must avoid the too easy solutions of not helping or of helping superficially without dealing with the deeper problems. For we too are recipients of grace.     

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