Brennan Manning says in The Ragamuffin Gospel…
“The saved sinner is prostrate in adoration, lost in wonder and praise. He knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven. It serves as an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness. Thus the sequence of forgiveness and then repentance, rather than repentance and then forgiveness, is crucial for understanding the gospel of grace.”
This really resonates within me. Maybe that’s because I don’t think we – as Christ-followers – truly understand that. I don’t think we’re taught that. I don’t think we’re shown that.
Instead, we are taught or shown the steps to Christian growth. We are given the different stages of Christ-likeness. We are told that we aren’t sinners any longer. We are encouraged to do… to try… to strive… toward acting like Jesus. We even have worn bracelets, reminding us What Would Jesus Do as we go about our day… all in an effort for us to produce something or someone that looks like Jesus.
In the process, we inevitably fail. We don’t live up to the standard that is set before us. We, exhausted with broken hearts and crushed spirits, find we can’t live up to that standard.
Thankfully, that is where a sinner like me finds God with open arms.
Understanding the Gospel of grace helps me to grow in grace. When I truly grasp what has been done for me and understand the Good News that God loves and accepts me, it sets me free from the unspoken requirement by the those around me to get better. As Manning says above, repentance is a natural byproduct of a sinner who truly grasps God’s love for him or her. As Romans 2:4 says, it is His kindness that leads to repentance.
We say that we know that God is love. We’ve read that in the Bible. (1 John 4:8) What I don’t think we truly grasp is that God loves and accepts each of us in such an unconditional, unchanging, and unrelenting way. As Pastor Shane Lilly says, “God loves you and there’s nothin’ you can do about it!”
Truly understanding that love and acceptance has the power to set the captive free, even if the captive is a Christian like me caught up in a world – even a Christian world – of performancism.
Out of a grateful heart pours the Spirit of Jesus into a world straining to find meaning, purpose, and peace.
And that Spirit is love and grace.