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Grace and Gratitude

There was once a debate among scholars at Oxford. What is it, they wondered, that makes Christianity different than every other faith system in the world?

After they had been going back and forth for hours, C.S. Lewis wandered into the lecture hall and asked what they were discussing. They filled him on on their debate.

“Oh, that’s simple,” Lewis said. “It’s grace.”

He was right. Grace is what makes Christianity utterly unique.

In the prayer Jesus taught us, He included a prayer for forgiveness. He called us to seek it from God and extend it to others.

We’ll get to the later, but we need to spend a little more time on the former.

The forgiveness of God is nothing less than a gift of grace.

It is totally undeserved. We cannot erase or undo that which requires forgiveness. We cannot do or say anything to earn forgiveness.

It is a gift of grace and can only be received by humble faith.

That messes with us, though. It grinds against our feeling of independence. It challenges our American dream, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps sensibilities.

We want to contribute. We want to feel as though we are worthy of such extravagant grace.

Last week was “birthday week” in the Jordan family. The three boys – my father and both brothers – have birthdays within six days of each other.

Imagine the three men I love most in the world came to me and said, “We searched Amazon and figured out how much you spent on us. We want to pay you back. Here’s a check for what you spent on our birthday gifts. Oh, and we included a bonus for the card you included telling us how much you love and appreciate us.”

I would be heartbroken – and so would you. Gifts are freely given. We don’t expect – or even want – the people we love to reimburse us for the gifts we give. That negates the whole point of a gift.

We do that with God, though. We want to earn what He has freely given. We want to prove our worthiness. But we can’t pay God back. And it breaks His heart when we try to.

Now, don’t get me wrong. God does call us to obedience. But our obedience is a response of gratitude to His grace. It’s not a payment on a loan. It’s not a way of retroactively earning His grace. It's not a way of evening up.

As you go about your days, pay attention to why you do what you do. Think about why you spend time with God, why you give, why you serve.

Do you do what you out of gratitude or out of guilt?

Forgiveness – and the grace that drives it – is a gift and there is only one appropriate response to a gift.


If you're driven by guilt, let that go. That guilt, that shame, is not from God. He wants nothing more than for you to enjoy His grace and celebrate it with gratitude. That's it. It's simple. Let it be simple.

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