Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

A People of Offensive Grace

In the weeks before Christmas a couple years ago, my husband and I noticed that someone was breaking in and stealing from our van. "Breaking in" may be an overstatement, as former country folk we simply weren't in the habit of locking our vehicle.

It started with an old coffee cup full of change. We figure there was about 40 bucks in there. Then it was CD's and gift cards. Then we got smart and started locking our van.

But if after a particularly hectic night we would forget to lock up, the next morning we would find the van doors wide open once again, and stuff missing. The thief seemed to be checking regularly to see if we remembered to lock up.

So on Christmas Eve we decided to leave the van unlocked and tape a twenty dollar bill to the dashboard with a note that said 'Merry Christmas'. Of course, that wouldn't be theft, because it was a gift. And it gave us great joy to do it. Most of our friends thought this was a great idea, could see that we were choosing to make the best of the situation, to reach out in a simple act of love.  But a few people were outraged. Why would we give a thief an opportunity to steal? Why would we give someone 20 bucks they clearly didn't earn?

It didn't affect them one way or another but they were angry that somebody was about to get something for nothing.

Friends, Grace is offensive.

We see this in scripture, don't we? In the parable of the workers Jesus tells of a man who hires people at different points throughout the day and then pays them all the same day's wage at the end. The people who worked all day received the wage they had agreed upon when the day began, but as they watched others receive the same wage, others who didn't work as long or as hard, others who weren't dripping with the same amount of sweat, whose feet weren't as aching and tired, receive the same wage as them, they grew indignant.

Grace is offensive. Watching somebody receive something they did not earn upsets our sensibilities, our sense of justice, unless we are thoroughly aware of our own undeservedness.

My good deeds and your good deeds leave us standing before God himself in dirty rags, paupers unable to save ourselves. And in His goodness he lavishes forgiveness and acceptance upon us, not because of who we are, but because of who He is. He does this for the thief, for the drug addict, for the adulterer, for the skipper-of-morning devotions, for the cheater-on-their-taxes, for the envious, and for the murderer, all the same. He doesn't ask us to clean ourselves up and come, but to come so that He alone can make us clean.

Friends, have we become so accustomed to this that we have lost sight of how scandalous it is? How other-worldly? How offensive to our sensibilities it is that God would lavish as much love and forgiveness on Saul, who was committed to persecuting the Lord's church, as he would on Peter, the friend who walked alongside Christ during his ministry, and wept the night He died?

Cheap grace says give people something for trying. God's grace says give people something they don't at all deserve.

Cheap grace says forgive a wrongdoer, maybe, if he's sorry. But God's grace says lavish as much love on the wrongdoer as on the victim.

Friends, I suspect we are all guilty of this. Of longing for people to receive only what they deserve, or growing indignant over what somebody else has received. But can I say this thing in love? It is a sure sign that you and I have forgotten the incredible mercy and grace that we have received and currently are receiving. The very fact that our breath is sustained while there is sin in our hearts is the outrageous grace of God in our lives.

For the record, the thief didn't take that 20 dollars that night.  Maybe he or she didn't come by, or maybe they thought it was a trap.  But it started a family tradition in our house.  A tradition that points us ever back to God's amazing grace.

We are a people of grace. Scandalous, unfathomable, offensive grace. Endlessly receiving what we do not, and cannot, deserve. May our lives reflect that today.

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  1. Wow! What powerful words! I just read that parable the other day, but hearing it again here, with the way you speak of undeserved grace, opened my eyes and convicted my heart! I am guilty of this. "The very fact that our breath is sustained while there is sin in our hearts is the outrageous grace of God in our lives." This is so true and I pray the next time I'm tempted to feel as though someone doesn't deserve grace, I'll be reminded that I don't either. Thank you, Kelly, for your wise words!

    1. Thanks Jessica, for reading my blog and leaving this encouraging comment. I am so glad that you were blessed by this blog post.


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