And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
How can Christians dispense grace in a society that is or seems to be veering away from God? As we noted in earlier devotionals, Elijah hid out in caves. On the other hand, his contemporary Obadiah worked within the system running Ahab’s palace while sheltering God’s prophets on the side. Esther and Daniel were employed by heathen empires. Jesus submitted to the judgment of a Roman governor. Paul appealed his case all the way to Caesar. In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey shares:
The one big thing the church has over the world is showing grace. Jesus did not let any institution interfere with His love for individuals. Here is where the fruit of the Spirit are so important in our lives. Jesus said we are to have one distinguishing mark—neither political correctness nor moral superiority, but—love. In I Corinthians 13, Paul shares that without love we are nothing.
Jesus warned that the world who hated him would hate us also. As the early church spread throughout the Roman Empire, the slogan “Jesus is Lord” was a direct affront to the Romans. When conflict came, brave Christians stood up against the state, appealing to a higher authority.
Through the years, this same energy continued. Christianity brought an end to slavery. It drove the early labor movement, women’s right to vote, as well as civil and human rights campaigns.
In all of this, we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. All our actions – and even counteractions – are to be seasoned with grace. When we show just the opposite, then we must consider the wisdom of our choices.
C. Coziness between church and state is good for the state and bad for the church
Herein lies the chief danger to grace. The state, which runs by rules of ungrace – the entire “world” does – gradually drowns out the church’s sublime message of grace.
The church works best as a force of resistance, a counterbalance to the consuming power of the state. The cozier it gets with government, the more watered-down its message becomes. Can you imagine any government enacting a set of laws based on Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount?”
A state government can shut down stores and theatres on Sunday, but it cannot compel worship. It can arrest and punish murderers, but cannot cure their hatred much less teach them love. It can pass laws making divorce more difficult, but cannot force husbands to love their wives and wives their husbands. It can give subsidies to the poor, but cannot force the rich to show them compassion and justice. It can ban adultery but not lust, theft but not covetousness, cheating but not pride. It can encourage virtue but not holiness.
So let the church be the church. But let it operate as the church with love, truth, unity, but above all - grace. This can also be the operating mandate for every individual Christian.
RESPONSE: Today I will operate in the world I encounter and in my church dispensing grace.
PRAYER: Help me, Lord, to be a person who is known for my ability to live like Jesus—with grace.
STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM (SSTS) -A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks
© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission
“When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.” Proverbs 10:25
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