20 August 2010

Grace and Purity - Finding the Balance

We always want to make it about us.
Often we think something like, "this is my balance (right this instant) so it must be THE balance." Even more often we think (and run across) the attitude that "this is what I think the balance should be (or would like it to be) so it must be THE balance... even though I don't model this."
We do this individually, and we do it in groups-- families, friends, cliques, clubs, political affiliations, as leaders, or within the Church. But this leaves no room to "work out your own salvation" (Philippians 2/12); rather it requires everyone else to perform to our imperfect standards, ignoring both God's ultimate standards and the fact that he made us individuals, and works with us as individuals. (We were never meant to be clones or droids.)
While the concept applies to almost everything, at the moment I'm thinking of it in reference to the balance between grace and purity. (Most of us would have expected the second attribute to be justice, as we see justice and grace as polar opposites. But there is also a tension between grace and purity, especially in the Church today. Some groups are big on grace and some are big on purity; few are big on both.)
Our holy God calls us to holiness. Our pure God calls us to purity. Nothing less will do. But because we are not God, because we are imperfect, God-- in his love for us-- gives us grace, all the grace we need to cover the distance between wherever we are and that place of perfect holiness and purity. The grace to be as he originally made us to be, in his image, his sons and daughters.
But we, as people, often refuse to extend that same level of grace (or anything even close) to one another, though we so desperately need and want it ourselves. We want grace for ourselves, but demand purity and perfection in others. What is God's response to this response of ours?
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Mt 7/1-2, NIV)
So, we can demand perfection, holiness and purity in others, and be crushed under the weight of our hypocrisy, or we can extend grace to others, and dwell in grace.
And yet, his grace is sufficient (I Cor 12/9). Otherwise, none of us would have any hope. Since he has extended this grace to us, we should extend it to others.
If your concept of God is bounded solely by laws, you might spend some time pondering Jesus' words on laws. The two greatest commandments, according to Jesus, are to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Mt 22/37) and to "love your neighbor as yourself". (Mt 22/39)
And how will everyone know that we are his disciples? By how thoroughly we demand perfection from each other? Nope. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (Jn 13/35)
While true love calls forth purity and holiness in each other (and models it!) if God in his love extends grace, then for us to do anything less is not only foolish, not only hypocritical, not only ugly, but a repudiation of all we claim to believe. At the same time, since he calls us to purity and holiness, we should go for it with everything within us!
Lord, forgive us all, and help us to remember who we are, who we were made to be, loved and loving, graceful and pure.

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