If you do something right or something admirable, you are rewarded or praised for it.
If you do something wrong or disobey, you are punished.
That is the narrative we all have been raised with since we were children. Good behavior gets rewarded. Bad behavior gets punished. That’s justice. That’s how the world is supposed to work. That’s the law in action. It’s neat and clean and controllable. If _____, then ______. It’s what science is built on. Laws of physics. Laws of nature. It’s explainable and it makes sense.
Then comes grace.
In Chapter 8 of Tullian Tchividjian’ book, One Way Love, it reminds us of the fabulous story in Les Miserables. Whether you’ve seen it on Broadway or watched the screen adaptations, you know the story. Javert, the unrelenting, rigid inspector tells Jean Valjean as he gets out of prison that he will always be a criminal and when Valjean breaks his parole, Javert spends the rest of his life hunting him down like one. Although encountering Javert under assumed identities, Jean Valjean always treats his pursuer graciously. Inspector Javert is consumed to bring Valjean to justice. In the stage version, he even sings, “Mine is the way of the law.” Here’s what Tullian says:
“Valjean refuses to play by the same rules of quid pro quo, going so far as to be gracious with Javert in their several encounters. Valjean’s treatment of him haunts and radically disorients Javert. In the climactic scene, instead of doing away with him once and for all, Valjean saves Javert’s life. Javert is utterly undone by this unexpected act of mercy.”
“Utterly undone.” That is one of the best descriptions of what grace can do. Yes, it can completely wipe away and “undo” my past sins, but that is only the factual part of it. However, when the reality of grace really hits me, and I mean REALLY hits me, I am utterly undone.
All the performance-based rules of how I am supposed to behave our thrown out the window. I am free of them. Now, when I’m good, I am loved and rewarded. When I’m bad, I am loved and rewarded (by grace!). Don’t get me wrong: This doesn’t mean I want to go out and misbehave or disobey. To the contrary. Because I am completely and utterly undone, I now am completely and utterly in love with Jesus. I have no desire to misbehave or disobey. I am compelled to live totally for God.
God’s love, shown by His radically disorienting grace and mercy has the power to move mountains. I have seen it set people free from seemingly impossible bondage. I have seen husbands and wives reconcile when all was seemingly lost. Shoot… it has radically transformed me at the age of 55! All because of His “one-way” love.