From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17 NIV).
Normally my route to and from work is the same without very many surprises. However, yesterday I drove into Chapel Hill to a doctorís appointment. The traffic was a little heavier coming home than I expected. One car stood out from the rest. As I was driving home, I noticed the top of a bald head ringed with white hair in the fast lane. As I overtook this older model Buick LeSabre, I also saw white curly hair peaking above the passengerís head rest as well. I thought this must be an elderly retired couple out for their evening errands. How sweet!Ē
The Buick was traveling just below the speed limit. Unusually I was in a little bit of a hurry, so I gradually overtook them and passed them. As I did, I glanced over at the ďcoupleĒ to get a better look. When I did, I immediately had to take a second look. My mind couldnít process what my eyes were seeing. Instead of a sweet little curly white-haired lady riding in the passengerís seat, I saw a big poodle with white curly hair, a wet nose, and a bobbing pink tongue. It was a surprise; I thought I already knew it was a little old lady in the car next to her husband. It was quite a start and a good chuckle. After I passed the Buick, the car suddenly sped way up and passed me. I got another second look and another chuckle at my newly discovered white-haired couple out for their evening drive.
We get so used to seeing what we have seen, that we are often surprised when our expectations are contradicted with something new. Grace is much that way for religious folk. Grace is the surprise passenger of religion when it comes to Christianity. No other religion has it, at least not in any sense like Christianity does. Laws, ethics, morals, commitment, striving to be good and decent, loyalty, worship are all qualities and activities of most religions seeking to make humans better people. People try to do better and be better so their god, gods, or goddesses will approve of them and bless them with what they need. If humans work harder, strive more earnestly, and are committed more completely, they can make something better of themselves and then maybe their god will approve of them ó thatís pretty much the religious view of righteousness.
Unfortunately, so many that claim to be Christian have never really taken a second look at grace. They accept that the common religious way of thinking is Christian. They just whiz by, expecting Christianity to be another religion demanding people do good things and to abstain from bad things. When they suddenly see Grace riding in the passenger seat of Christian faith, they donít take a second look. They just make Grace into something it is not. Christianity becomes watered down and loses its great surprise and incredible wonder because it is made into just another religion. How tragic! So today, Iíd like to ask you to take a second look at grace. To understand that Godís grace to us in Jesus is what sets Christianity apart from religion. We are not trying to be good enough to be accepted by God. God has already bridged the chasm between his holiness and our failure with the sacrifice of his Son for our sins. We are not saved because we became better by adhering to a bunch of new rules better than other folks adhere to their rules; instead, we are saved because we trusted that through Jesusí death, burial, and resurrection, God has re-made us into his precious children. It is worth a second look!