See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God. Hebrews 12:15
How can you fall short of the grace of God? I can understand falling short of the law of God, since we all do that, but God’s grace is a free gift. It can’t be earned. So how can you fall short of it?
I have a couple thoughts about this. The first is, you fall short of the grace of God by going back to the law. Indeed, Paul wrote about this in Galatians 5:4. “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Trying to erect a system of works in order to be justified before God is to take you away from God’s grace. To make yourself right by any means other than the grace of God is to fall short of that grace. You disqualify yourself from grace by making it unnecessary.
But there is another way we fall short of the grace of God and that has to do with our vision here at the Catch, to turn grace outward. To fall short of the grace of God would be to keep it to yourself — to receive the free gift of grace and not extend it outward to others. To act as if the grace of God were only for me.
God’s grace is not passive. The grace of God is an active force in the world. In fact, I would suggest there is nothing more powerful than the grace of God. It upends everything. The grace of God does not sit still. Receiving God’s grace empowers you to extend it to others. It is not a private thing; it is given to be given away. So grace that stops with you is grace interrupted, grace gone dormant. It was never meant to stop with anyone.
In fact, the ongoing life of grace is so much a part of it that it could be argued that grace interrupted is not grace at all, or at least not fully realized. Because grace is totally undeserved favor, there is no one to whom it cannot apply. The only people to whom it does not apply are tragically those who disqualify themselves by thinking they don’t need it.
So grace keeps on going. Grace engages us with other people. It keeps us awake and vital. It connects us because grace for me cannot ever be separated from grace for everybody else. We have to tell the story; the news is too good. In the ‘60s and ‘70s we couldn’t stop talking about the grace of God. We told everybody. What happened? What changed? Nothing. Except that Grace got interrupted.
Grace interrupted! Those are two words I won’t forget. I think your perspective is on target. Thanks for shining a light on an often (and easily) overlooked verse.
In Matthew 18 Jesus tells a parable of a man who was already forgiven a debt but failed to forgive someone else. His forgiveness was then revoked and he had to pay. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35) I think the mistake made by the Galatians is connected to this. The unforgiving servant in the parable must have forgotten about the grace He received. He must have kidded himself into thinking that according to the law he was doing just fine. How else could he have acted like such a scoundrel?
I think this is all very sobering when you consider a church that was commissioned to be ambassadors of grace but has historically made extra-biblical rules, shut out others and passed judgement like they would get in trouble with God for not judging. Grace turned outward isn’t just something nice to do. It is a requirement for keeping the grace the whole world has already been given.
Very well articulated and appropriate. Thanks.
Amen, John. Thanks for this comment.
I cannot imagine life without the Grace of God and how much more wonderful with millions more sharing this. I know without the Grace of God I would never have gotten thru some of the most tense moments over the years. The law was a good start but, the Grace of God so much more and hopefully more folks will not say I don’t need this. We all need this each and every day.