Self-sufficiency and Grace
Even with all the freedoms we enjoy as Christians in America, there are some elements of our culture that are in direct conflict with Christian faith. I’m not talking about a direct war on Christian freedoms, but rather about assumptions ingrained in our culture that are so much a part of us that it is almost impossible to see how they affect us.
We Americans value self-sufficiency above almost all else. We disdain those who live off handouts. We value those who work, contribute, and take care of themselves and their families. Ironically, we value those who give generously to the needy, yet we disparage the needy for being needy.
These values are so embedded in the American psyche that I believe we are nearly incapable of understanding grace. I can’t even begin to count the number of Christians I have known who will affirm on the one hand that we are saved by grace and love of God, that we need His forgiveness. Yet, we still carry the idea that we have to be good enough for God to love us, to earn our salvation. We need to find something good about ourselves that makes us worthy of His love — we don’t really want charity, even from God. When asked how they get into heaven, the vast majority of Christians will still proffer something about how they’ve tried to be a good person, help others, etc.
We can all nod and smile when we hear in Sunday’s epistle lesson, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, click here to read the full passage) But we struggle mightily to embrace and own what that passage promises.
This is not about having a conviction that we are worthless sinners, accepting in despair that only by grace could God love one such as me. Rather it is about accepting that God does love me not because I deserve it, but because it is His nature to love. He loves me for me. The good, the bad and the ugly. Not because of me, or in spite of me, but because of who He is.
And that means we can relax in His love!
This column appeared in the March 11, 2018 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
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