Grace is not grace if it has to be earned

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A lot of things in life have to be achieved. We need to achieve good grades in order to win the favor of our parents, and later, an admissions committee. When we enter college, we have to achieve good enough grades to graduate so that we can get the job we’ve always wanted. When we get the job, we then have to earn the respect of our peers, and our boss, in order to move up the ladder and earn more money. Our society, on the whole, believes that we have to earn and achieve our way into the good life.

This achievement-oriented way of life has infected our spirituality. Whether we realize it or not, we believe we have to earn our way to God. We feel guilty if we fail to read the bible when we get up in the morning. When we slack up on our daily prayers, then we start to feel distant from God, as if it were up to us alone to keep the conversation going. Heaven forbid if we miss church or forget to tithe.

In contrast, the disciplines of the Christian life are not boxes to be checked-off in order to achieve access to God. They are ways we receive the gift that has already been given to us through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul declared in Romans: “there is no one who seeks after God” (3:10). We do not seek God mainly because we do not want anything to do with God in our sinful nature. Instead, God seeks us in Jesus Christ. In him, we meet a God who stops at absolutely nothing to “reconcile us to himself.” This understanding of God then re-defines the disciplines of our faith, and they underscore the rationale for the regular participation in the sacrament of holy communion and the hearing of the preached word. We listen to the sermon partake of Christ’s body and blood at the Lord’s table, in order to receive the gifts God gives us, not to earn them.

(Rev. Will Wilson is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore. Contact him at revwillwilson@gmail.com)

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