Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
These are the words everyone wants to hear. Whether it’s NASCAR or the Indianapolis 500, everyone stands up and yells their heads off. It’s not the checkered flag at the end of the race. Heck, it’s not even the green flag to start the race. It means get ready for the race.
Paul starts out his letter by starting his spiritual engine with two words that ignite all of Christianity. Everything hangs on these two small words. It seems a shame that we really don’t understand them, because they are so very important for knowing who God is, his love for us, and our response in daily life. Here’s the first word.
Grace – perhaps the most misunderstood word of all. It’s less about the giver, but more about the receiver. Grace is something that is given to produce joy in the receiver. It is a favor done for the benefit of the receiver. Grace is given without expectation of payment in return. Grace is undeserved, it is unearned.
The motive for giving grace is energized just by the act of giving. It’s not done to guilt anyone into doing something, or to force their hand. There is no thought or attitude of, “Well, I did this for you. So, what are you going to do for me now?” No, the grace giver is just so excited by the giving itself.
When traffic is heavy, I sometimes let another car in front of me. I always wave my hand, letting them know that they are free to move. But what do I expect from them?
I know that no one is going to jump out of their car, race over to shake my hand and put a $20 bill in it. I know that no one is going to take my picture and have it go viral on the internet as the kind person that let them into traffic. But I would very much like it if they waved back or flashed their headlights back in thanks.
By its very definition, this is not grace. When I wanted something in return, when I hoped for a positive response, it proves that grace was not part of the gift. I did it to get something back in return.
Grace is to let them in with the expectation of getting nothing back. Grace is given freely with no thought of return. Its only motive is to share something that will benefit the person receiving.
But God took the idea of grace and expanded it beyond anything that had ever been thought of before. Or since. He took the concept of grace and put the-pedal-to-the-metal of life.
All that anyone could, and should, expect from God was his just and righteous anger. After all, we all had spit in his face and told him to get out. Leave us alone. We had intentionally turned away from him and his loving embrace, wanting instead to do our own thing. Write our own story. Live life the way we wanted. We had made ourselves the enemy of God.
And what was God’s response? He had every right to just blow us away. To destroy us. To throw us far away. To rightly and justly send us into eternal darkness and punishment. But, what does he do instead?
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
We had made ourselves the enemies of God, and his response is to come and die for us. He didn’t wait for us to get our stuff together. He didn’t set up a list of three things that we had to do to earn his Fatherly love. He didn’t make his love conditional, he did it all on his own.
He made the payment that we couldn’t pay. He paid the price that was unpayable. And his payment was free to us. All we have to do is receive it with outstretched, empty hands.
Coming back to God is a free gift. It’s never earned. This personal and eternal restoration only requires us to put down our self-assurance, out prideful thinking that we can somehow make it on our own.
The height of grace comes when we begin to see the heights from where God came down for us. We begin to rightly see who we are, that we have no chance of fixing ourselves. Saving ourselves.
The only right response, the only logical response, the only grateful response, is to receive his grace, forgiveness, and mercy. He’s all about giving grace. Your job, my job, is to receive his grace.
How has God shown his grace to you today? In your life?
How do you feel about receiving good things vs. not so good things?
So, what are you waiting for? What’s stopping you from receiving?
 Unless otherwise noted, all Bible references are from the New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.