Wondering if Grace is Worth the Cost?

Sometimes I just want to step away from people. I get tired. Living in honest community can be frustrating and discouraging. And then the song “Lean On Me” cycles up on the music list. That is not funny Lord. The lyrics sung by Bill Withers talks about being there for others. Life happens, John Lennon famously said, when you are making other plans. Life has been happening to us and many close to us in recent months.

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend

I have been thinking a lot about community. I have, to be honest, had moments when I wondered if living in community with messy people is worth it. I have come to understand why legalism is so much easier than grace. Legalism allows me to assess the situation and then apply a verse, assign a task and move away in self-righteous expectation. If that person rejects that Biblical admonition or task then legalism allows me to withdraw because they are disobedient. Grace does not give me that option. Grace demands that I move toward the struggle of my brother or sister and not away in judgment. No wonder grace is a tough sell.

That is the glorious dichotomy of grace. Grace wears me out and lifts me up. Grace frustrates and exhilarates.  My old nature screams that people who make bad decisions over and over get what they “deserve”. They don’t “deserve” to be pursued and loved and restored. They made their bed now let them lay in it. But there is a small quiet voice in my heart that tells me that they have value. That they are loved by their Creator. And that voice asks who am I to decide who “deserves” anything?

A quote by Pastor Paul Donnan says it far better than I ever could.

Grace doesn’t treat us better than we deserve. It treats us without the slightest reference to what we deserve. Grace ceases to be grace if God withdraws it upon any human failure. If Grace is in any way tied to something you do, then it is no longer a gift but a wage, and that’s not grace.

And, to be selfish, the lyrics of Bill Withers tells me why it is in my own best interest to give grace willingly.

I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
Till I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Yep. It is just a matter of time until I will be begging for grace for some stupid action or word. Paul knew that was true and reminded the Galatian Church.

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. (Galatians 6, The Message)

Why are we so willing to receive grace and not extend it? Maybe the next lyric has a clue.

Please swallow your pride
If I have things
You need to borrow
For no one can fill

Pride. Pride causes us to cover our needs because that would show weakness. Pride tells us to wear a mask of false joy so that others won’t know our shame and sin. Our Father in Heaven designed this journey to be lived in community. God knows that we need Him and we need one another.

We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem
That you’ll understand

We all need somebody to lean on

Yes it is hard to walk with the wounded. Yes it is frustrating to watch messy people make the same mistakes over and over. Yes it is tiring to give grace to the needy. But my heart’s desire remains the same. These words in Hebrews wrap it up nicely.

And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. (Hebrews 13:16)

Do the right thing. Help those in need. Pleasing God.

Seems worth it to me.

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