Owning up to ones faults is never an easy task. Identifying the qualities of oneself that are less than appealing or distasteful is an uncomfortable yet humbling experience. This has been my undertaking over the last few days. Over the past couple of weeks I have been reading the recent biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. In this book, which I recommend highly, I have encountered a man who so passionately pursued God that every action that flowed from him encompassed grace, honesty and self-reflection. From my time spent reading this book I have come to realize that a characteristic that I have come to embrace about myself has been at the very same time counteracting an attribute that I wished to attain. In short, my cynical nature has been counterproductive to a life lived for grace.
My recognition of this came about from reading passages in “Bonhoeffer” that spoke of Bonhoeffer’s gracious treatment of the guards and wardens who held him captive during WWII even up to the point of his execution. Bonhoeffer knew that everything that he did was a reflection upon Christ and that he must live his life as a witness to the power of what Christ did on the cross and in his resurrection. I realized upon reflection of his actions that Bonhoeffer was embracing grace even before any action inflicted upon him constituted giving it. Grace was his way of life not, as he defined, cheap grace but true grace. The circumstances through which Bonhoeffer endured would have justly led to an attitude of cynicism and hostility but he remained hopeful, fervent in prayer and gracious.
I realized after reading this how I have often claimed to live a life of grace based solely on the assumption that grace was bound by cause and effect. An individuals particular actions would lead to a need for grace to be extended. (I am here merely referring to grace given between human counterparts, not divinely instituted prevenient grace.) This however has been a false assumption on my part. Grace does not rely on a cause but is a natural effect of one lived within Christ’s unbounded grace. It is a result of the outpouring of grace upon an individual that then flows out of response to a fully committed life to Christ. Given my incorrect assumption I operated by merely extending grace when the circumstance called for it rather than living a life that reflected the grace given to me.
By living this way I felt that I could still maintain my cynical nature and pessimistic (although I maintained it was a realistic) reaction to individuals and circumstances. My cynicism was a direct result of denying grace within my life. I now realize that I can maintain a life of critical reflection while embracing and living out grace but that I must be ever aware to not let myself slip into cynicism which would inhibit grace flowing through me. This is a fairly new revelation for me. Granted I grasped the concept intellectually some time ago it took reading an example of a godly man’s life for it to make the leap from head to heart.
Change is never easy and it’s an ongoing battle but if I desire to live a life of grace then I must be willing to tackle those things that would get in the way. In light of my own humbling encounter with the Spirit pointing out my weaknesses I would like to ask you: how are you neglecting grace in your life? How can we continue on this grace filled journey together where the Spirit is shown in our lives through the outpouring of grace and we can remove all hindrances from it?