We can be selfish people.
Notice the word “we”, I am pretty selfish as well. I have a one-year-old daughter, so that idea gets hammered into my head on a daily basis.
I say this because, while we may desire to hoard most things for ourselves, there is one thing that we give away with the enthusiasm of one of the world’s great philanthropists.
We love to give away condemnation.
It is not a wholly selfless act.
We do get something in return. Something that we value greatly.
There are these little nuggets of “truth” that are packaged with beautiful backdrops and circulated around the internet. They are called memes, and in this particular case, I am speaking of the Christian breed. I see them and, when they are actually true, they can cause self-reflection and deep conviction.
For one fairly simple reason, I rarely share them.
If I can’t manage to share the message without having someone in mind that I am squarely looking down my nose at, or it could be left open to the interpretation that I am, I strive to avoid forwarding it along.
Try the following exercise.
I happen to believe in the transformative power of being confronted with the radical grace that has been offered by God, so I actually agree with this statement from A.W. Tozer.
Try this, though, create in your mind the person that most needs to hear this message.
What is this person like? How do you feel about them?
What would this person need to do to convince you that they have, in fact, experienced the saving grace of God?
How does all of this make you feel about yourself?
Now that we have adventured down this little rabbit trail, where have we found ourself?
We have fallen away from grace.
When we take a message like this and apply it to others, the grace that we speak of disappears, and is replaced by self-justification. We ask others to justify themselves to us, while we are using them to justify ourselves.
For a moment, let’s be selfish. We are going to smuggle this message away and let it be a window into our own life.
Who were you before you experienced the grace of God?
Who are you today?
Who do you hope to be tomorrow? In eternity?
The greatest of journeys begins with a single step, and make no mistake, we are on a magnificent journey.
“T’was grace that brought [you] safe thus far and grace will lead [you] home.”
No amount of condemnation or self-justification is going to get us further along on this journey. It will only make the burden that we carry on the trip heavier.
“… he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” [Philippians 1:6]
If God started this good work within us, and grace is the vessel on which he chooses to carry us, then condemnation serves no purpose in his travel plans.
If you doubt that someone is on that journey, give them grace and hope the find their way.
If you think that someone is lagging too far behind, lighten their load, offer some grace, and hope that they can catch up.
Have abundant generosity in grace… you can probably just throw away the self-justification and condemnation.