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3. Grace Is Not a Blue-Eyed Blonde

Grace Is Not a Blue-Eyed Blonde was one of the first Christian books I read. The title claims that there is some confusion about grace. Almost everyone admires the gracious. A gracious person is kind, classy; they know when to speak and how to say something uplifting. A gracious person also knows when to be quiet, when a hand on the shoulder or smile is just right. At Christmas our family stenciled the word “Grace” on the sidewalk in front of our house. There it was to see for the many people who walk by everyday. Children try to sound it out; they ask their parents what it means. One mother said, “It means to be nice.” Others have said, “It’s about forgiveness.” The newest definition is tolerance; grace is when anything goes, when you don’t interfere in other people’s business. Christians are the ones who should know what grace means, but there seems to be some fuzzy thinking even among the biblically astute.

Grace Is About Forgiveness Only

God’s grace certainly applies to the forgiveness of sin. Paul put it plainly, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”[1] Eternal life is a gift; no one in his or her right theological mind would question this. People tell others, “Back in 1984 I was saved by God’s grace.” There is a tendency to think of grace as a big shot of God’s mercy at the point of salvation. I would liken it to an artist taking a big dap of blue paint on the end of a huge stick and slapping it onto a white canvas. Some paint would dot the edges; the residue would slide down the canvass, but it would be periphery to (or a side-effect of) the big splat. At salvation we get the big splat of grace; the rest of our life we get little residual doses. This thinking blocks God’s grace from my everyday experience. Spiritual birth is the starting line; God’s grace is his continual gift of himself to us everyday we are on this earth.

Grace Is Passive

Since salvation is a gift and we can’t do anything to earn it, we must simply pray and wait for God to give us more. Dallas Willard put it best, “Not only have we been saved by grace, we have been paralyzed by it.” [2] There is a tendency to think of grace as the opposite of works. This is a mistake, though it is understandable. The phrase in Ephesians, “saved by grace, not by works” has given works a bad name. The word “work” has suffered from guilt by association. We understand that “works” in Ephesians 2:8 means we cannot earn favor with God through effort. There is no effort or work that can be good enough or effective enough to purchase our lives and satisfy God’s requirements. If we read on, however, Paul weds works to grace in a way that is vital to living for Christ. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things [works] he planned for us long ago.”[3] I put works in brackets because most translations use it. God’s grace is the gift of being able to perform the works that He has planned for us. Grace is active; it empowers us. Grace is that quality that comes from the Holy Spirit that teaches, convicts, reminds, discerns, and gives us the gifts needed to work for God.

Passive Grace Is Cheap Grace

When you think that grace is something that is done to you and you can’t do anything to activate it, you cheapen God’s grace because being passive leads to either a tepid response or no response. God’s grace, his empowerment, his ability to work in us lays dormant. Jesus held nothing back, he was active, and he did something. He gave us his all; his gift of grace had sweat on it, tears on it, blood running from it. So what is our answer, our response? It is to unleash all his grace as we give back to him our lives. God’s grace cost God everything, His life. Now it costs us everything, our lives. Let’s drive a stake through the heart of passive grace, cheap grace. Effort is good, effort is of God, effort is of the Holy Spirit, and effort is full of grace.

[1] Ephesians 2:8 NLT

[2] Mark Galli, “Interview with Dallas Willard and Dieter Zander,” Leadership Journal (Summer 2005)

[3] Ephesians 2:10 NLT

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