One of my friends and I were recently talking about the idea of God’s Grace. I’ve been doing some thinking about that the past several days, because it seems to be a common current in my life (well, it is in all of our lives,) but especially for me lately because there’s something from my past that I’ve had a difficult time accepting God’s Grace for, even though I’ve been able to accept His forgiveness.
A few days ago as I sat down to journal, God gave me a cool understanding of where Justice, Mercy, and Grace fit in together, so I wanted to share 🙂
Justice is like cause and effect. We all sin (Romans 3:23.) And the wages of that sin is death (Romans 6:23.) Pretty straightforward. Our sins will cause us to spend an eternity separated from God (aka hell.)
Mercy is like, the penalty for our sin is commuted/delayed. God is merciful towards us when we are nonrepentant sinners because He wants us to turn to Him (cf. 2 Peter 3:9.) When we sin, He doesn’t exact immediate Justice because of His Mercy.
Grace is the substitutionary payment for our sins. It involves full payment of the penalty, so Justice is satisfied. But we are shown Mercy, because God Himself paid the full price through the blood that Jesus shed on the Cross.
Mercy without Grace will still result in Justice. My struggle with trying to “earn” forgiveness for what had happened stood against Grace. In effect, I was saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t sufficient to cover what I’d done, so instead I wanted to try to take care of that myself. Which is a huge deal – since Justice must be satisfied, rejecting Grace means that we will have to pay the penalty ourselves. If we don’t repent of our sins and turn to Christ, accepting His Grace, we’ll die without Him and thus spend eternity separated from Him.
But why Jesus? Why does it have to be through Him?
There is the “easy” answer of quoting Paul in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved,” or Jesus in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me,” among other places. But I’m not about just taking the easy answer, I like to dig and ask “why.”
The best way that I’ve heard this explained is as follows. Look at your hands. Now picture yourself sticking your hands up to your wrists in a bucket of mud. Notice how the mud runs down your arms, how it covers and envelops each finger, how it drips on your shoes and the floor around you.
Now, using just your hands, try to get the mud off. It’s not possible, is it? Even if you were to try to wipe your hands on your shirt and jeans, or try to fling it off, or whatever – they still wouldn’t be fully clean. On top of that, everything you touched in the effort to get clean would become dirty as well.
Your hands, covered in mud and filth, are a symbol of what happens when we sin. The mud is representative of the sin that covers us, and no amount of effort on our own part can fully clean us of that sin. Everything we touch will become dirty. Everything we do will be tainted by the sin that covers us.
We can’t rely on another person to help us either, because they’re sinners too – their hands are also covered in mud just like ours are.
Left to our own efforts and abilities, we are hopeless.
Every belief system in the world relies on this idea of “good enough.” Whether that’s through good deeds, reciting prayers, performing tasks, taking pilgrimages, karma, or whatever, their claim is that if we can only be “good enough,” we’ll be ok. The thing is, we can’t ever be good enough. We can’t do it on our own. Our hands are already dirty, so it is physically impossible for us to clean them ourselves. This is why so many people feel empty, hopeless, helpless, and lost. No matter how hard we try, we can’t ever be good enough.
However, there is hope.
The only way that Justice could be satisfied and still allow us to be set right with God is by God Himself giving His life in our stead. That is the key difference between belief systems and Christianity. Belief systems rely on what we do to try to make up for our sins – they rely on us using our own muddy hands to somehow try to clean ourselves. However, Christianity relies on what Jesus has already done – on us allowing Him to clean our hands (in other words, on us accepting Grace.)
By accepting the Grace of God we are given through Jesus Christ, we are cleansed by the blood He shed on the Cross. He is the only One who never sinned, so His Hands are clean. He washes our hands for us if we will allow Him to. He takes our mud on Himself, and in the process cleanses us. Second Corinthians 5:21 tells us that “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”
“The wages of sin is death.” Because of the sin we commit, we die spiritually, and Justice demands that we spend eternity separated from God. “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” Jesus already paid the price of our sins through His death on the Cross. He satisfied the requirements of Justice. Our debt has already been paid – we are extended Grace through His sacrifice.
All we have to do is accept His gift of Grace, and then allow Him to be our Lord.