Of all the words that we learn in the Christian faith one of the greatest is grace. In this word we learn that God’s love for us is not based upon our failures but upon God’s character. That it does not matter where we might find ourselves in life’s journey God is able and willing to extend to us what we may never feel worthy to extend to ourselves.
The Christian life can oftentimes reveal challenges to our understanding of ourselves. The reason this happens is that we are so busy on any given day trying to do the best we can to accomplish the tasks before us we overlook what is happening within us. As followers of Christ, we are encouraged to reflect inwardly on the work of the Holy Spirit within us. This work of transformation is one that requires openness and humility oftentimes lacking. The reason it is lacking is that, for better or for worse, it is easier to live our lives that way.
This is not to make an accusation or be overly critical. Everyone does this. But from time to time it is worth considering why. Why do we content ourselves with not thinking or reflecting on the course of our lives?
I don’t know how anyone else would answer that, so I’ll speak for myself. I think I do it because confronting those things which I know must change can be painful.
To admit I have been wrong in some areas of my life is not easy. And for some, I would imagine, it can bring to mind past hurt that has gone too long unaddressed. And the longer we bury that pain and hurt the more difficult it becomes to acknowledge it exists at all.
This is why God’s grace is such a powerful remedy to the injuries of our past. It is an acknowledgment that God already knows. That there is nothing in this world we could tell God he has not already heard. That there is nothing we would have experienced that would surprise him. That there is nothing we could say that would make God desire to be less gracious toward us.
This may be surprising to many. But it should not be for those of us who have come to know and believe the gospel of Jesus. One of the great examples of this is given to us by Jesus himself as he was hanging on the cross. While being mocked and as he died he looked to heaven and asked for the Father to “forgive them” (Luke 23:34). The very people who were the cause of his immediate suffering were the recipients of God’s grace and Christ’s request for forgiveness.
We all stand before the cross of Christ because of our sin mocking and deriding him. And Jesus, just like he did on that day, turns towards heaven and asked the Father to forgive us for our sins. And we have a choice in that moment of realization. We can either accept the forgiveness that is offered or we can reject it. We must make a choice in response to Christ’s declaration.
There is no passive reception of forgiveness. We must acknowledge it intentionally and we must receive it through an act of the will. God will not apply forgiveness to us just because he desires it (and he does). God extends to us his grace as a free gift but if we do not embrace it and “open it” for ourselves we will never experience the fullness of its benefits.
The season of Lent is a time for us to reflect on the grace God has extended to us. This grace is beyond measure and without comparison. God has extended to us grace when what we deserve is something far worse. But God who is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4-10) has decided to give us one of the greatest expressions of his love. We can reject it and we can malign it but we can never deny God has extended grace to us. The cross of Jesus Christ has not left that option open to us.