Many years ago (more like 7), I was writing for this small Christian magazine and a good friend of mine was also there and wrote on the topic of grace. “Pimpin’ the Grace” is what she called it. I wish I still had a copy of her article; it had so many gems in it. Today, however, I’m going to explore my own territory about grace, what is it, how it works, and how many of us trick it out for chump change. Yes, chump change. [There's a lot of information here so take it section by section.]
What is Grace?
We (society and especially the Body of Christ) talk about grace all the time — but never in the right context and never in the effort to extend it to others. To make sure we’re all on the same page, let’s define “grace” from a few different sources.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: (I love this dictionary because it was written with the BIBLE in mind. Most definitions have a bible verse associated to direct the reader to the appropriate context. LOVE.)
1. Favor; good will; kindness; disposition to oblige another; as a grant made as an act of grace.
2. Appropriately, the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him.
And if by grace,then it is no more of works. Rom.11.
3. Favorable influence of God; divine influence or the influence of the spirit, in renewing the heart and restraining from sin.
My grace is sufficient for thee. 2 Cor.12.
4. The application of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner.
1)favor, grace, charm, elegance, acceptance.
1)that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech2) good will, loving-kindness, favor.
Whew. Now that we’ve established those things, let’s get to it.Grace is something that we receive from God because of His love and compassion for our dirty, filthy selves. We received His grace before the foundation of the earth and at our acceptance of Christ into our lives, that grace follows us everywhere and is everything we do. We don’t deserve it, but we get it anyway.Grace is what makes a jealous, wrathful God turn his heart towards us in loving kindness. It was grace that saved Noah and Abraham and David and Alisha [that's me] and whole bunch of folks who did wrong but was redeemed — not by anything they did or said — but through God’s grace and mercy.
Beautiful thing, right?
The problem is, we forget (or don’t understand) the magnitude of our spiritual filth, individually and collectively. We forget the secret sins that we hide from the world, the nasty things we think and say (that only God knows). We, in all our accomplished glory (no matter how big or small), become remiss in remembering when suicide, depression, promiscuity, drug use, slander, jealous, greed, and backstabbing ruled our lives. We forget the lies we told to get over on someone in a college classroom or the number of times you sent sexual text messages (with pictures!) to someone who wasn’t your husband or wife. We forget. We forget. We forget.
Paul understood how important it was to not forget these pains in 2 Corinthians 12:9. He begged God on three separate occasions to remove the “thorn in his side.” There was something that Paul was dealing with that Satan kept using to buffer at him. It drove Paul c r a z y. Paul had seen the resurrected Christ with his own two eyes. He had experienced God in ways that no one had experienced Him before. He had plenty of reason to boast and be proud, however, this “thing” (his secret) kept Paul in check:
So to keep me [Paul] from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. — 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Because Paul REMEMBERED his thorn in his flesh, he was able to humble himself and extend grace to other people. He was effective in meeting people where they were and teaching them about Christ. Because he remembered what it was like to not be 100% holy, sanctified, and full of the holy ghost (insert a spin and Baptist fit right here), he was able to be super effective in his life and ministry.
Who are we to not extend that same grace to other people? Remember, grace is about giving favor, kindness, clemency or reprieve to someone who doesn’t deserve it! We fall, stumble, and because of God’s grace, we live to tell our story. We overcome (and so do others) through our ability to take advantage of redemption. Yet, we won’t do it for other people. We forget what it was like to have a “thorn” in our own sides.
How Do We “Pimp the Grace”?
Joyce Meyer so conveniently tweeted this earlier today: (you know that’s my home girl!)
Grace is a means to an end, a way to build ourselves up to be better people and get closer and closer to looking and living like Christ. When we “pimp the grace”, we misuse his favor, kindness, and mercy to continue in a life of sin because we know that God is going to forgive us. We are slow to pull ourselves out of the muck and mess. We drag our feet to forgive others and keep clean hands a pure heart before God because we’ve taken for granted the grace He bestows on us. We dress God’s grace up in a tacky polyester suit, give it an S-curl, and parade it up and down MLK Highway for show. There’s no value, no understanding in what His grace means for our lives; we pimp it out, sell it for pennies.
Joyce Meyers is right: Grace justifies us, it makes us right before God and should give us a constant reminder that what God has given us is precious and priceless. It does not, however, give us license remain in and unequivocally support a sinful lifestyle. Remember that jealous, wrathful God I mentioned earlier? He’s real. It’s only because of Christ’s blood that we don’t see that side of Him… much.
Have you ever had someone take your kindness for weakness? Not a good feeling, huh? Once you realize that’s happening to you, what’s your response? Anger? Frustration? If we can feel that way towards people who have little to no impact on our lives, how much more then for our God who sacrificed so much for us?
Today’s challenge is to understand God’s grace, bask in its glory, extend it to others, and not objectify it as some tool we use to get what we want. I’m out the “pimp game”, turning in my stacked heel shoes with the fishes in them and my pimp cane. I’m giving up walking the “Christianity Boulevard”, parading my grace like some eye candy on my arm. I’m going to use this grace for my good and the good of others. Peace up, Grace-Town down.
On the grace chase,