The greatest difference between the Christian faith and all the other religions of the world can be summed up in a single word: grace. Christ died for us while we were still sinners, the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 5, verse 8. God did not wait for us to become good or righteous before he acted to save us from our sins. God loves us, and his forgiveness, his grace, comes before our ever believing the gospel.
Our faith is in something that was already true before we even knew about it – before we ever believed.
That’s what grace is: forgiveness that is undeserved, unearned.
When I was a boy, I learned a lesson about grace that I’ve never forgotten. I was about 11-years-old, and I was playing with a baseball behind our house in Chicago. One thing led to another, and before long the baseball found its way through one of our windows.
Now my dad was the kind of old country disciplinarian who believed firmly in the proverb, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” I’m sure I was pale with fear when he called me into the house to face the consequences of my carelessness.
But then something amazing happened. When I walked in and looked up at him, towering over me as he did at that time, I saw something different in his face. He didn’t look furious – as I fully expected him to look. Instead, he looked deep in thought, like he was studying me. After what seemed like forever, he finally said, “You deserve a spanking, but I’m going to give you grace instead. You know what that means? It means don’t be so careless next time.”
I like to call that “the spanking I didn’t get.” I remember it more clearly, and it had a greater impact on me than any punishment I ever got. It not only taught me to be more careful where I threw balls around, it taught me the joy of extending grace to others.
And in time it also made it plain to me what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote in Titus 2:11-14, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
No, God didn’t wait for us to become righteous before he acted in love, mercy and grace to save us.
Experience is indeed a great teacher, but grace is an even better one.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.