Though our senses begin the long process of failure as we age, there are some things we can only see as we grow older. The reckless zeal of young faith yields to a seasoned wisdom. For this very reason I am thankful I am moving further away from my youth. Maybe their are others who could be called ‘wise’ and still be young. However, you could not number me among them.
In the last year, I have seen something I hear little about and something I am sure I could not have seen as a young man. And it has cut me to the core. It could be summed up in just a few words, “Grace for me. Law for you.”
I love how the gospel of grace gives me hope and tells me I have freedom from the guilt and power of sin. I love its comfort. I love how it changes me. I love to simply think about it. And when I sin, I love going to the gospel to be reminded of the forgiveness I have in Christ. But I must confess I love to exact obedience to the law in the lives of others.
My own life is coddled in the bosom of graciousness. For there, nurturing affection can be found. But for everyone else I have traded in the sword of the Spirit preferring the the cleaver of the killing floor. Self-righteous insecurity is the order of the day. My own sins are covered. I want other’s to be revealed and seen for all their horror. I want to be outraged by them and just as well as misery, my outrage needs to draw others in.
There are no excuses for this. But it is the very air we breathe in the land of evangelicals. Actually, no one, regardless of religious orientation, is immune. But my world is populated by a majority of those who define themselves by the ‘evangel.’ The gospel. Good News. And we love it for ourselves but we have the hardest time in doling it out to everyone else. We want our relationships down here and our relationship with God characterized by grace and mercy. But we cannot find it in our heart to be merciful to people and we sure as heck think their desire for grace and mercy is presumptuous. It’s like some kind of sick spiritual sadism that groans for grace for ourselves and then wants to lower the weight of the law upon others. We crave the velvet touch of grace for our own battered lives but instinctively we want to hammer the struggling lives around us with law.
And I live in this reality. I reside here. And have for some time. The mantle has accrued the dust of years living this way. The furniture has permanently marred the carpet from a lack of movement form this position. I have maneuvered through this space without light for decades. So I do not want to simply wield the very weapon I am just now recognizing and beat anyone and everyone over the head with it. I have seen too much of this life before God to now come down on others with a lesson I have only recently learned.
But it is a lesson we must learn. We are commanded as believers to love one another as we have been loved by Christ: grace, mercy, kindness, love, patience…all these must needs be a part of how we deal with others. These define how we have been dealt with. So we must enjoy the freedom of the grace of God and at the same time long to extend grace to each other and bring the grace of the gospel to bear in the lives of others.