Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Grace Notes

In the past few days I've thought quite a bit about grace. It's still a mystery to me. What truly is it? How does one come to grace in daily relationships and interactions? Is grace just a "free pass" to do anything we want? (I think Romans 6 makes it clear that isn't the case)

Still, the amazing thing is grace is always more abundant than sin. It is inexhaustible. I love that and yet, still struggle with this concept. Doesn't grace demand something? Remorse? A resolve to be better? Should we still expect consequences or are they truly erased?

It's a paradox to me.

To some, grace means we shouldn't impose our expectations on others, yet how is that possible? How can faith survive without some semblance of order, accountability and truth to uphold?

The "grace" I'm most familiar with baffles me. It's rarely truthful; instead it's just avoidance of addressing what one expects or desires but chooses to keep silent about. We're told to speak truth in love but doesn't "speaking truth" denote judgment? And don't we all believe judging others is wrong and not a characteristic of love and grace?

Grace is beautiful, wondrous and mysterious; it heals and restores, values and makes right. Is the law a demand to fill expectations? Or is it a way of expressing the joy and beauty of grace to choose to live in obedience and holy, righteous living? Shouldn't grace free us to and compel us to fill expectations? Not abandon them?

I struggle with this concept of grace because like CS Lewis states everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely concept except when we have something to forgive.

When I was growing up I heard it say that one of the biggest objections to going to church or hearing about Christianity was because it was full of hypocrites; those demanding excellence from others but not themselves..... but nowadays do we even demand excellence from ourselves? And from others?

I'd love to know your thoughts on grace, living right, and if it's right to have expectations of others.


  1. So, I was thinking about this while driving to work this morning and someone with a self-glorifying license plate frame cut me off, then continued to weave in and out of traffic. My first initial thought was something to the effect of ‘what a selfish man’ – then it was ‘oh man, he’s being incredibly dangerous right now.’ I think this example deals mostly with me…because I did not interact with this person, yet, I drew conclusions about him based on the fact that he was being inconsiderate to others. So, is that wrong? Those thoughts in my head lasted about 5 seconds, then disappeared. I think if it was something that I held onto and let get to me, I would have some issues to deal with. But, say we’d pulled into the same parking lot and walked into the same store…I think this is where grace comes in based on the way I treat him. You’re right, in this instance, about grace not being ‘truthful’, because I’m not going to confront him about it.

    So if forgiveness or grace needs to take place between friends (or another situation) in most instances, at least for me, I feel that truth needs to be spoken. Accountability is big to me, and it’s a two way street. First, how am I to know what uncommunicated expectations my friends have of me, and vise versa. Second, when those expectations (communicated or not) are not met, there will be some disappointment.

    Yesterday, my boss, whom I normally agree with, said she believes “Expectations lead to resentment.” I disagree. I feel that resentment is what disappointment turns into when you don’t communicate where that person failed to meet your expectation. And was it mutually established before? Was it reasonable? Did you talk to them after they “failed?” They might not even realize what they did “wrong.”

    You said “We're told to speak truth in love but doesn't "speaking truth" denote judgment? And don't we all believe judging others is wrong and not a characteristic of love and grace?” – I think you posed a great question, but when I think about speaking truth, I don’t feel that I am judging anyone. Maybe I view the word “judge” differently. It seems so final. I think of it more of stating the facts and awaiting an explanation and/or apology (if this is an instance where I felt wronged). If neither are given, I think this is where grace comes in, where we have to choose to forgive…but even if they don’t admit wrong-doing, I don’t think it’s required that we relinquish our “truth” and say that we now agree with them since they won’t come to our side – we were in disagreement, I forgive, and then continue to treat them fairly.

    (continued below)

  2. Regarding this: [When I was growing up I heard it say that one of the biggest objections to going to church or hearing about Christianity was because it was full of hypocrites; those demanding excellence from others but not themselves..... but nowadays do we even demand excellence from ourselves? And from others?] – This is interesting and I want to think more about it. My favorite, non-Christian singer has a song where one of the lines is “I don’t know if my best is enough for me anymore” and I think that can be applied to this. Because we are striving to be like Christ, our best should never be enough. We should never stop reaching for more and expecting more from ourselves. I guess I want to reflect this attitude while not being so demanding of others, but rather just show love and hold others accountable to what they say they believe…and if we’re part of the same Church body, our beliefs are apparent. If we as a church body would hold each other accountable appropriately, when could we be accused of being hypocrites? Just thinking out loud…

    I’m sorry – I completely sidetracked myself and went off another route and barely even touched on grace. See what I mean, I AM disjointed! Perhaps I just needed to ramble for a minute! :)

  3. Janny,
    People don't read my blog....... what are you doing here? ;-)

    First, I'm a strange person that just likes to bring up questions without answering them. I agree and actually bemoan the fact that truth has taken a backseat to "tolerance' and grace. I think it is possible to hold someone accountable, speak truth and yet do it in a manner that is full of grace. In fact, I think to do so without truth is a bit sad........ How an we be in community with each other, a grace-filled, community when there is no honesty? Could it be that some have a view of grace that inhibits truth instead of exposes it?
    For me, to have a relationship with no expectations is a very shallow relationship. I do think that we are to extend grace and understanding, of course! But I'm just tired of this shallow sense of "live and let live" and love everyone, and don't be critical of "their" truth..... because that's not grace and love.

    I know I make no sense.

  4. You're fine; and I state these things while still pondering them myself. Yes, I agree with you on loving others and that we should strive to be like Christ and not demanding a lot of others.
    But shouldn't we expect something? I'm truly just trying to figure out the concept of grace: It's undeserved and without merit. God continually forgives and calls us to do the same.... but does there ever come to a point where you say "enough!"?

    I'm married and I know I disappoint my husband at times, and he frustrates me too! I love him, and want to show that and do things that reflect that. I don't intentionally annoy him. I think our relationship is truly unconditional; that there will never be a point where he says "enough!" even though if it is deserved. Yet.... I see so often in the world that witholding grace is justified. We live in a world where there are consequences and only a limited amount of "chances". .... so... I just wonder does grace have limits? Can we love someone, forgive them yet want nothing to do with them? Is that grace?

    I hope not, one one hand. On the other, I want to say, "well, I gave that person a lot of chances" I tried. it did not work out.

    Sorry; now I'm on a tangent. I'm just saying: I want grace that truly is limitless when it's extended to me, but when I am forced (or choose) to forgive and extend grace, I want limits to it.
    I think you are right..... if we are in a church body and hold each other accountable and do the hard, even painful things, can it ultimately unite us and cause us to not be hypocritical?

    Anyways, I'm more random than you are. I rarely make sense and I ramble like crazy. I am sure I made absolutely no sense. and I'm not re-reading this so I'm sure it's also wrought with misspellings and incomplete thoughts that don't even address what I'm attempting to say.

  5. Ha! You made me laugh at your first first I thought you said "Please don't read my blog" not "People don't read..." Funny. I think this is a great little blog you have, even if you think people don't read it. I encourage you to keep doing this - even (and especially) if the thoughts aren't fully formed. They are provoking for me at least! I think we're in agreement, there are just so many different avenues to take this and it's always great to get the juices flowing and makes me pursue answers more...and in turn, pursuing Christ more, so, yay :)

  6. Oh and to answer your earlier question, I was looking for the book review, and then got distracted by a shiny object...

  7. Oh, I don't mind you reading my blog; :-) I just almost enjoy the false sense of freedom that no one reads my blog so I can state things and question without feeling really odd.

    But I am really odd so what am I afraid about?

    Thanks for your understanding and encouragement. I wasn't kidding when I said I blog for my sanity. I just like to question and I like how you seem to make that a positive trait! :-)

    Thanks for your comments and stumbling upon my blog.