A lot of Christians who grew up in church under legalistic rules are as excited as Martin Luther or John Wesley to find God’s grace.
They are happy to spend only two hours on Sunday at church. They rejoice to wear clothes that look more or less like their friends’ wardrobes. They learn to play poker, if only for pennies. It’s not about rules! they exclaim. It’s about grace given by a loving God!
Of course, one of the reasons God gives us grace is because none of us is able to
live according to God’s rules. Those rules aren’t just there to prove we’re failures. God established commands to make our life in this world reflect God’s glory. God teaches grace as another way to help our life in this world reflect God’s glory.
Grace is more than ‘fire insurance’
That is to say, God’s grace is not just how we escape eternal damnation. It’s how we learn to love other people. As the apostle John said, “We love because he first loved us … whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen…. Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:19-21)
One of the fascinating ways God connects the commands given to us is by the promises that come with them. When different commands come with the same promise, I tend to think there’s a relationship. So today we have three different commands spoken by Jesus that come with the same promise:
“With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
One is the command in Luke 6:38 to be generous:
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
That is to say, be generous and generosity will be returned to you, whether directly by God in a miracle or indirectly by God through God’s people.
In Mark, discussing those who have hidden or revealed what God has taught them:
“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Mark 4: 24-25)
Those who use their spiritual gifts and spiritual knowledge to make God’s grace and glory known grow in giftedness, responsibility, and rewards.
Another Scripture with the same promise is related to how we treat others we think are doing wrong:
“Do not judge and you will not be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ” (Matthew 7:1-2)
Our kindness or unkindness, our forgiveness or unforgiveness, return to us. If we assess others harshly, we shall be harshly assessed. Our own lack of grace toward others will be echoed in lack of grace toward us.
Those who come from harsh, legalistic backgrounds might “consider carefully” what it means to measure up under these standards. God is calling us to measure up in grace, in generosity, in openness to God’s gifts.
Grace: Not just a gift but a way of life
That means there’s no room for legalism. It’s not possible to legislate grace. That’s the point of Galatians 5:13-26. But it’s possible to follow God’s rules of conduct to help us live according to grace: a way of life that creates a healthy community.
Grace is not just something God did once for us. Grace is the rule of conduct we must choose when we or another inevitably fails.
Legalism or Love? by Trillia Newbell … a member of Redbud Writer’s Guild is also thinking about the same subject this week.