By Curtis Shelburne: Religion columnist
My oldest son, Chris, recently married his loving and lovely fiancee, Shayla. I’m so proud of them both. They’re enjoying the warmth of the sun and a beautiful beach right now, and I’m basking in the glow of thanksgiving right here, just knowing that Chris and Shayla are husband and wife.
Preparing the wedding message, I was struck yet again by the diamond-like beauty of God’s grace. What God says to Chris and Shayla, he says to you and to me, and it sparkles as the best and most genuine truth in the world: God loves his children so much that he could not possibly love us more and he will never choose to love us less. He knows us completely, and still he loves us completely. He completely accepts us, not because we could ever deserve his love, but because in faith we’ve opened our hands to accept his gift that we could never earn, could never craft, could never devise or design. It’s ours through faith in Christ and the sacrifice he made on the cross — fully, completely, once for all for all time.
The Father doesn’t look at us and say, “Look at Shayla’s life. Look at Chris’ life. Here’s what she’s done by her own power. Here’s what he’s done by his power. I’ll make up the difference.”
That is not grace at all. It’s a sham of the worst sort because it would leave us open to say, one to another, “I did this much; you did that much. I did more; you did less. You needed it worse; I needed it less.”
No, God’s gift of grace is full and complete. The bad news is that we don’t deserve any of it; the good news is that we don’t have to. The bad news to our pride is that we can never say, “Look how much I’ve done.” The good news is that we’re free instead to praise the God who through his son has completely redeemed us. Any good we’ve done, we’ve done through his power and his love, not in order to gain his love, but because we already have it completely and forever.
This good news is intensely practical. We and our mates never become more lovely by trying to force each other into loveliness. Even God couldn’t make us lovely that way. He sends his son to do what we could never do, and he tells us, we who can’t possibly be by our power what we need to be, “Trust in my son and his righteousness. Through faith, it’s yours. Really. Completely. Now that you’ve received my gift, go and in my power live beautiful lives knowing that though you can’t possibly measure up on your own, through my son you already do. Live life with joy, you who are fully loved, fully accepted, fully forgiven for your failures and fully empowered to live into a future filled with genuine hope.
God never beats us into greater loveliness. Through absolute mercy and grace, God loves us into genuine beauty and shows us how to truly love each other. What a gift.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org