“If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
When we give a gift that we have made with thought and care, our hope is that it will be received with gratitude. If our efforts are tossed aside and we never see evidence that it is appreciated, we’re tempted to stop giving or become critical. Grace is not like that. It is not dependent on the gratitude of the recipient, but on the love of the giver. Those who have been broken by grace want to remain in that love. In so doing, they fulfill the law of Christ, not apart from the Old Testament Torah, but as defined through it.
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
I crocheted blankets to give away to teachers as a parting gift before I retired. One teacher politely refused, saying, “No thank you, we’re trying to declutter our house.” Needless to say, I was surprised by his response, but in retrospect, I appreciated his honesty. I receive joy from working with my hands. What happens after that is out of my control.
We are the masterpiece of God’s hands. He lovingly placed us in a world designed to meet our needs and please us. Through sin and rebellion, the gift was tossed aside and we became alienated from our creator. The law was given to establish God’s expectations. Those who tried to keep it multiplied the requirements of the law to ensure that they were righteous. The burden for living a holy life became so heavy, that the poor, common laborers knew they were guilty and they gave up. That’s why sacrifices were made for their sins by the priests each year on high holy days.
Jesus summarized the law into love of God and neighbour. He further reduced the sting of the law by triumphing over sin and death on the cross. He was our priest who offered the ultimate sacrifice, once and for all. Grace cost us nothing; it cost God everything. If that really grabs your heart, you will be so grateful, that love will flow to God and your neighbour. And thus, the intent of the law is fulfilled. To knowingly sin, believing that God will forgive anyway, is to miss the point, as the Apostle Paul points out in our scripture lesson.
“Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make God love me less. It means that I, even I who deserve the opposite, am invited to take my place at the table in God’s family.” (Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?)
Lord, We come to you with empty hands to receive your grace. Help us to live our lives thoughtfully in gratitude for the huge cost of our salvation. Show us how to love. Amen.