Jesus came to give us new life; new families, but to also give us a new way of doing community. As Americans, we have a different way of doing community than most of the world. Our country was founded on principles of individuality, and we as Americans are fiercely independent. We do not like other people telling us what to do and when to do it. Although we all live in a society that has rules and morals which are for the greater good; still we value and pride ourselves in our right to be independent free thinkers, as individuals and as a nation. Independence runs deep in our culture and our blood as Americans.
In some ways though our culture of autonomy runs counter-culture to the Bible. Jesus came to give us life and told us to live in relationship with Him and one another. In the book of Acts we see new believers and the church coming together to care for one another, to teach, learn and grow from one another, and to hold one another accountable to walking in the way of the Lord. Believers are called to live grace-filled lives within their families, their church and their community. We often struggle as believers to know what grace looks like, what is it and what it isn’t.
I like Mark Driscoll’s definition of grace: Grace is God the Father, in love doing good for ill deserving sinners through God the Son by God the Spirit. Grace is God showing His love to us, his enemies. The very nature of grace is that it works in the midst of conflict. As ill-deserving sinners we are in conflict with God. God’s grace then becomes a model for us on how to live in a grace-filled community with our family and others. Just as God in his grace does not overlook our sin, so we cannot and should not overlook our own nor the sins of others. We like to think that our sinful behavior has no effect on anyone but ourselves. But that is a lie that the world has fed us. Sin breaks relationships; first the individual’s relationship with God, and then their relationship with others.
Because we are all sinners saved by grace, we should not shy away from calling sin what it is: sin. It is not an accident, or a mistake. It is sin in the face of a loving God, sin that breaks His heart.
When my children were young they little they loved to play the “run away from mom” game. You know that game. You tell your child to come here and they run the other way. Living on a busy street, I could not afford to let my young children loose for a second. It was my job to make sure at all costs that my kids did not run out into the street and get possibly hit by a car. Living in community with a body of believers, it is our responsibly at times to warn our family not to run out in street; to warn them of the danger and sometimes to go after them.
Tim Keller said in his book The Prodigal God, “Real grace intercepts destructive behavior. Real grace brings you in freely and then holds your feet to the fire until you become somebody great.”
When the people we care about sin like the prodigal son and decide to go their own way, Jesus expects us to do something about it. Galatians 6:1 says “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” The Prodigal son came home after he “came to his senses” and God uses us the lives of others to help bring others “to their senses” and turn from their sin.
And so grace is gentle but it is also interrupts. “Grace is free in that it is not earned (indeed it is the very opposite of what is deserved), but it is costly as it is given with sacrifice because of love. That is the scandal of what God did for me by the cross and it is His calling for me to do to others to bring glory to His name.”
I like what Wendy Alsup wrote in her blog Practical Theology for Women about Grace in conflict from 2 Tim. 2:22-24.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
1–Grace understands the truth of someone’s condition—they are ensnared by Satan and DECEIVED. They really don’t see things the way you do.
2–Grace is in it for the long haul—it patiently endures evil.
3–Grace corrects (so the truth is not subverted or glossed over) but it corrects gently (with strength well under God’s control).
4–Grace’s goal is not self-acquittal or vindication or that people would come to see things your way. Grace’s goal is repentance with God that leads to knowledge of the truth.
Grace is meaningless without truth. But truth will kill you without grace. The worst thing we can do in conflict is engage in it when we don’t understand grace for ourselves. But once we really understand God’s undeserved favor to ourselves, then we can minister grace to others who have sinned against us in whatever way we can with the prayer that God would draw them to repentance and the knowledge of the truth.
Just as Jesus came in grace and truth, so we are called to represent grace and truth to our families, and one another, and to be willing to hear it from others. We are sinners saved by grace living in a community of grace with other sinners saved by grace.
“Love doesn’t sweep sin under the carpet, but it keeps others out of the room until it can be cleaned up.”