The Grace

“All the saints greet you, especially of Caesar’s household.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Philippians 4:22-13

Paul ends his letter to the church in Philippi with a reminder. They are part of an ever-widening, and diverse family, and they are in possession of God’s never-ending, and unmerited favor.

God’s covenant had set apart the Jews as The Chosen people. Over the years they held a tight grip on the title, but they lost sight of the purpose for which God had chosen them….”To be a light to the Gentiles.” As the church of Jesus Christ moved out on mission to shed the light, they would always be tempted to bring the heat.  Shedding the light and bringing the heat are not always one and the same thing.

The church was to be marked by the capacity to widen the family circle, and to deepen their appreciation for God’s unmerited favor, at the same time.  Grace is often hijacked by people who are convinced they have it, but aren’t too sure that anyone else is worthy of it. Their delusion is an illusion. They embrace Christianity as a system, and allow their system to overshadow The Savior. They make grace so priceless that it is simply unavailable to anyone else. Their inner circle freezes out all comers until they become “The Frozen Chosen.” No one else need apply for membership.

The other danger is to make grace appear so cheap that it never attracts or transforms anyone. People who are fond of turning God’s grace into turning a blind eye to sin are blinded to the price of it. They dispense it like shore leave sailors, without any thought of what God’s grace cost Him and His Son.  The wages of sin is death. There is no grace without the blood of Jesus. Sanctimonious, sanitized appeals to love the sinner and hate the sin often are diluted into expressions of “grace” that ignore the sin, and pardon the sinner, without a trip to The Cross.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ cannot be earned, and it will never be deserved. The church is a family because the various members are related to one another, not because they are elated with one another. They have one Father, not one opinion. They are not smooth, polished parts assembled into an elite unit because they fit together. They are misfits that rub each other the wrong way, and create friction and heat that can cause the works to seize up, if operated without the oil of God’s grace.

Note to self: There is a huge difference between giving people the benefit of the doubt and giving them a piece of your mind. Don’t lose your mind, giving it away one intimidating crisis, or irritating Christian at a time. You don’t have that much left to give. You are way past the luxury of having half a mind to give to someone else. Keep it to yourself and pray for them.

The little things can kill you. A sliver of bone or a grain of sand do not become dangerous until one is caught in the throat and the other becomes a rock in the shoe. A harsh word, a cross look, a sarcastic statement, or a cold shoulder don’t appear on the surface to be very toxic. When they get between two members of the same family, without The Grace of The Lord Jesus Christ, they are quite damaging to The Body of Christ. Left untreated the friction between two irritating body parts can create an annoying heat rash that develops into a life-threatening cancer.

The last word Paul shared with the Church at Philippi was grace. He reminded them that the family was growing to include those they had never met, and some they may have always hated. He surprised them with a birth announcement, introducing them to their new brothers in Caesar’s household.

The family of God is not a closed circle, but an ever-widening one. Those who have been a part of it for a while are resistant to letting go of their grip on those they have in their hand, to take hold of the hands of brothers and sisters God brings to the family reunion.  When they show up at the campfire, they are to be saluted, not slapped back into the darkness.

When churches board the “White Flight” express to escape from neighborhoods with shifting demographics, they may win the race to the suburbs, but they fail to express God’s grace to His diverse family. But I digress.

For people living under the iron-fisted rule of Roman rule, this piece of news may have stuck in the craw of the people of Philippi.  God’s grace is always easier to swallow when it is dispensed to those we know and favor. It can become bittersweet or a bone in the throat when God dispenses it to those that don’t appear, from our perspective, to deserve it.

Point: No one deserves God’s grace. It is unmerited favor, and an undeserved gift, provided only by the priceless sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.

Praying in the Spirit is a vital part of The Body Life of the family of God. Prayer brings the oil of The Spirit on the spirit of someone who has been rubbed raw by irritating people or intimidating circumstances. When the greeting of another Christian feels more like a slap in the face, than a salute of honor, it is past time to pray for God’s grace. Playing an offense over and over again in one’s mind is a poor substitute for praying it off of your heart.

Talking about another person doesn’t make them a subject of intercession, only an object of criticism.  A critical spirit drives the bone deeper into the throat, and shoves the rock deeper into the skin. Praying releases the oil of God’s grace between people. Those who are full of selfish resentment, and criticism are not full of Christ’s Spirit.

“Discernment is given for intercession, never fault-finding.” Oswald Chambers

Praying with one another, and for one another pours oil between body parts that have lost their appreciation for one another. Prayer has the capacity to improve The Body’s vision, and range of motion. The longer two people pray together, and for one another, the more they see God’s grace in one another, and the more they serve together, the less they get on one another’s nerves. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!