Have you ever met anybody named Grace?  I’ve known a few ladies by that name.  They were all very sweet, kind, and friendly.  I have always assumed that they became that way because of their name.  God’s grace is beautiful, warm, amazing, and gentle…or is it?

As part of a recent Faith Element Bible study with my Sunday School class, we were treated to a clip from Schindler’s List.  In that clip, Schindler was talking to Amon Goeth about what it meant to be powerful.  He had the power to kill and/or torture anyone for any reason, and did kill many.  He was considered to be a very powerful man.  Yet, his definition of power surprised me.

Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don't.  -Oskar Schindler in the film Schindler’s List

Have you ever thought of power that way?  Do you think that is an accurate definition of the word?  That definition certainly seems familiar enough, but is not often tied to power.  In fact, that matches up pretty well with the definition of grace.

Think about it.  God’s grace comes in the form of forgiveness, understanding, and unconditional love.  Through our sin, we give God every reason to forget about us, be angry at us, and even destroy us.  But in His infinite grace, He offers forgiveness and gives us a chance to repent

How hard would it be for us to offer such a reprieve?  While we usually think of grace as a passive, gentle act, the constitution that it takes to ignore our instinct and opt for love and mercy is often unfathomable. 

God is able to offer such unimaginable grace only because of His limitless power.  And His power is shown perfectly through that grace.  Wow…His grace really is amazing.

 
I work for a federally funded TRIO program.  The work that all of these programs do is fantastic.  Taking students from disadvantaged backgrounds and helping them get to, and succeed in, college is a service that is irreplaceable and changes lives.

However, the regulations under which we operate often seem absurd.  There are things we must do, things we may do, things we should not do, and things we can’t do.  We have self-identified goals and objectives, institutional operations, and government legislation that dictates almost everything action we take.

Once a year, we have to report our activities and results to the federal government.  As I sit in on meetings and webinars discussing the details of these reports and how they may impact the future of our operations, I am always overwhelmed and often heavily burdened by the strict guidelines we must follow.

If I get this stressed out and weighed down by this one report for my job, what must the Jews under the law of Moses have felt like.  Their relationship with God was on the line, and the details of their law seem impossible to keep straight.  One of the main reasons that the Old Testament is hard to read is that it is detail after minute detail about how God’s people were expected to live.  And if it is this difficult to read and understand, how much more difficult would it have been to live under and obey every aspect of it?

I am thankful for the relationship that I have with God because of the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I praise Him for my salvation.  The gift of the Holy Spirit is something that could never be replaced.

However, the lazy person in me is sometimes just as thankful that the law was fulfilled with Christ’s sacrifice and I am no longer responsible for keeping up with the seemingly infinite number of commands brought forth in the law.  Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, and now I can hang onto my cattle.  Jesus renewed my connection to God, so I don’t need to go to the temple to repent.  Jesus came to me so that I won’t have to work my way to God.

Praise the Lord!

 
I really like to eat.  Even though I have had to change my eating habits over the years, I still treat myself every now and then to something I can really dig into.  Chicken wings, steak, ribs…I am seriously getting hungry just thinking about it.  Thankfully, the Bible is supportive of my habits.

Solid food is for those who are mature… (Hebrews 5:14a NLT)

Very cool.  There are so many times when I read the Bible and feel challenged or convicted.  It’s great to find a scripture where you just feel completely vindicated.  For once, it’s comforting to know that you are in line with the word.  Wait…what?  I took that out of context.  Well…let’s see.

There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen.  You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.  You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.  For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.  Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.  (Hebrews 5:11-14 NLT)

Ah…I get it.  Food is a metaphor.

While there are several lessons in this passage, I want to focus on the last two sentences.  I think that, far too often, we expect people to instantly become just like Jesus when they give their lives to Him.  It’s like we expect them to pray for salvation and open their eyes completely changed and full of Godly wisdom.  Obviously, that cannot be the case.

Determining right from wrong, making just decisions, and deep theological understanding come with spiritual maturity.  I am reminded of the lyrics of a Casting Crowns song:  “God has got to change your heart before He changes your shirt.”

We cannot expect Christians that are new to their faith to know everything or be prepared for any trial that comes their way.  Actually, no Christian could fit that description.  We need to be patient, supportive, and loving of people through their mistakes as they mature in their faith.  Hopefully, we have had people there to do the same for us.  I know I have…and still do.

So the next time you witness a new believer stumbling, try to remember that they are working their way up to solid food.  They may not be ready to handle that particular challenge…at least on their own.  That is when it is our job to pick them back up and help them get back on the path toward spiritual maturity.

And if you are new in your faith, let this passage serve as encouragement that you aren’t expected to be perfect.  It is assumed that your transformation into who God wants you to be will take time.  You will stumble at some point, and that’s okay.  That’s what grace is all about.

I hope that one day I will be spiritually mature enough to sit at the solid food table.  And I pray that my brothers and sisters in Christ will continue to help me along in my journey.