Thursday, November 02, 2017

An Uninvited Discipline - Grace

“Wait!” you say. “There no discipline in Grace.  It is God’s free gift.  I just accept it, right?  It’s all God.  How could there be any discipline in receiving grace?”

That is what we have been told, isn’t it?  That Grace is all God’s responsibility.  But, if we examine the cultural context of the use of the word charis (grace) we might get a different picture.

In our day, the word “grace” is used uniquely and sparingly, but in the Greco-Roman, New Testament culture, grace was an everyday word which represented the synergy between patron and benefactor, master and servant, gifter and recipient.  That culture, with a huge division between rich and poor, could not exist without it.  The poor would be devastated by deep needs; the rich would be devastated by lack of household, farm, and political support.

So, grace was not a one-way effort.  The original gift may have started with patron, master or gifter, but there was an expected response and  partnership that was a giving and taking and giving again.  It was a symbiotic relationship between each.

It was almost a dance.  Gift begat loyalty and relationship.  It was the interaction of joy and benefit for each. If you have ever given a gift to someone only to find out they didn’t use it, or offered a helping hand which was rejected, or offered your hand in a dance to be rejected, you can get a taste of the necessity of a response to a grace offer.  In the Greco-Roman world, such a rejection was almost taboo and, definitely, a disgrace.

John the Baptist sees this most clearly, trying to get us to see the gift and response to the coming Savior, “This is who I spoke of, He who comes after me is preferred before me.  And of His fulness, we will receive grace for grace.” (John 1:15, 16) In the Greek, it is “charis anti charis,” “grace against/opposite grace” or “grace for the cause of grace.”  In a dance, the dancers are across from each other, “opposite” each other, the dance incomplete without the other.  I take this to mean that effort is a companion of grace.  It is the response to grace. 

What is the grace/gift that God extends to us?  To what am I to respond?  God is extravagant with His gifts.  He gives the power of the resurrection (Eph 1:19, 20).  He gives the desire and power to obey Him (Phil 2:13).  His divine power gives me everything I need for a godly life (2 Peter 1:3) and the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).  He gives us "every spiritual blessing" (Eph 1:3)  Wow!  What generosity!

And my response?  The Bible makes it clear what is a partnered response to this grace.  Peter says to make every effort to apply those promises to my life (2 Peter 1:3-9).  Paul says to treat grace as special and trust God in what He gives (Gal 2:20,21).  Because of God’s promises, I am to clean myself up and be holy (2 Cor 7:1). My response-ability is clear and holds great promise.

What a dance that would be!  God offers all the power you need to live the holy life! You take his hand and let him lead.  You stay in step with the music and movement of grace, to accept where He may take you.  It is a discipline to let Him lead and to stay in the follower-role. 

God begins a work in us and invites us to join in the effort.  When we live under the influence of God, of which the Bible names many ways of doing so, these become elements of grace, his unmerited favor.  God makes the change possible within the context of our lives and when we catch His vision and plug into the movement of God, growth and change happen.  Life becomes different.

Keeping the dance metaphor requires that we keep God at the center of the discipline of grace.  He is the patron, the master, the gifter, the “lead” in the gift of grace.  You keep your eyes on him.  When you and God join up and dance, your life is now supernatural.  A whole lot of God (the super) and a little bit of you (the natural) makes that possible.

Have you been dancing with God?

1 comment:

Kirsten said...

I absolutely love this! What a beautiful picture of what a flourishing and healthy walk with Christ can look like-one continuous glorious dance! That's how I want my sanctification process to go-following His lead, completely in step with JESUS!