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.
The kind of self-sacrificing love Jesus offers is scary to our world. People often run from it because it requires us to trust only God. And most of us find it impossible to embrace Jesus’ example unless we have been brought low by illness, or loss, or a broken relationship, or our hopes have been sorely disappointed. The world teaches us that no matter how hard we try, we cannot secure our destiny or save our lives. The only sure things in life are death and taxes we often say. However, Paul tells us that God can bring security through His grace that nothing else can bring, and we have no control over God’s gift of grace. So because we like to be in control of our lives and our destiny we are afraid of being solely dependent on God.
This grace comes directly from God through faith, and we can do nothing to earn it. Thus we have no control over it.
My friend told me about a bedtime exchange with his four-year-old son, Bobby. Bobby was upset when he had required him to go to bed earlier than the boy wanted. He said, “Daddy, I hate you.” My friend said, “Bob, I’m sorry you’re upset, but I love you.” The boy said, “Don’t say that Daddy!” Then his dad said, “I’m sorry Bob, but it’s true. I love you.” His son again protested, “No Daddy, don’t say that again!” Then my friend said, “Bobby, I love you…like it or not!”
Little Bobby protested his father’s love because he realized he had no control over it and he could not use it to his advantage. He had no bargaining chips. If his dad had agreed that Bob could stay up later this night if he went to bed earlier the next night, then Bobby would have had some control in the deal, but in the face of unconditional love, we are powerless. That is how God’s Grace is. Perhaps we can choose to accept it or not, or we can run away from it, but we cannot manipulate it, or control it. And only when we die to all of our delusions of being in control do we realize that losing our perceived power is actually life-giving. So God’s love continues to chase after us, seeking to hold onto us and redeem us all the days of our lives, whether we like it or not.
God’s grace continues to seek us out. It comes to us sometimes when we least expect it. When you happen to think of someone who needs praying for, and you pray for them, that is the prompting of the Holy Spirit to help you live into the grace-filled life that God prepared for you to live. When you see someone in need and respond to their need that is the Holy Spirit helping you share the grace that God has prepared for you to do.
We have been saved and remade in Christ for this, for the “good works” that are simply part of the mode of life in Jesus Christ. We’re not saved by any good works, but we are saved by God’s Grace so that as we are prompted by God’s love, our good works are evidence of reconciliation and love that God pours out on us.
- Have you stopped recently to recognize how God’s love is being a part of your relationships with others?
- Where have you experienced God’s Grace in you life?
- How can you become more aware of God’s grace in you life?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.