Grace does not do things tit-for-tat; it acts finally and fully from the start. – Robert F Capon, Between Noon and Three
We’ve been well conditioned by this world to always expect a catch when something good happens. We enjoy the moment until suddenly, deep within us, a fear quakes. Our hearts and minds respond to the muscle memory of that proverbial shoe that has always been faithful to drop. Our eyes squint with skepticism. We can’t completely relax and just enjoy the good, much less trust it.
“There ain’t no rest for the wicked, money don’t grow on trees. We’ve got bills to pay, we’ve got mouths to feed. Ain’t nothing in this world for free.”
“A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.”
“What goes around comes around.”
“You only get what you give.”
“You reap what you sow.”
This is why we have such a hard time trusting the good news of the gospel. We are accustomed to believing in Karma, and perhaps, with life on this earth, it rings true at times. As my wise friend Marci says, there are “ earthly consequences of being an asshole.” Thankfully, God’s modus operandi has never been Karmic. The Gospel is Karma’s antagonist and grace is contrary to everything we’ve experienced. We flat out will never get our comeuppance. God has promised to remember our transgressions no more, much less allow them to bite us in the ass on the Last Day. If there’s a future grace that awaits us, we can trust he’s not holding anything over us now. (Romans 8:1)
Even still, I’d argue that “there’s no free lunch”. Oh sure, we get the undeserved, free meal ticket to a mind-blowing buffet. But it’s only free to us, that meal was incredibly costly, paid in full by the blood of Christ. I’m not saying that to guilt you into some sort of sorrow to make up for the grace you’ve been given, by the way. That’s a sinister trick I’m all too privy to. Christ gave everything while our pockets were empty, and frankly, they’ll always be empty. That truth matters simply because while we wait for that proverbial shoe to drop in our relationship with God for the rest of our lives, Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension is the guarantee that it never will. No matter what.
“Sarah! You need to be careful it sounds like you’re giving everyone permission to sin so that grace may abound!”
The gospel really is for those who are completely desperate for the kind of promise void of shoe-dropping. Void of the “I love you if’s” or “I love you but’s”. The gospel is, I love you, PERIOD. This has nothing to do with how moral or immoral one may be. It wasn’t dependent upon your morality 2,000 years ago as Christ hung on a cross and breathed his last, and it isn’t dependent upon that now. But I know that muscle memory well. I know the doubt that plagues hearts and minds. This message is so easy to forget, and thankfully it remains true whether we remember it or not.
“So then, shall we sin that grace may abound?”
“May it never be.”
Only an idiot, the Apostle says, could ever confuse that with permission. Saint Paul is not talking about morality at all; morality is for the living. He is talking about death, and the only thing that makes sense when you have to deal with the dead is resurrection. He is not pointing out some possible course of action whose permissibility or impermissibility might be a matter of debate (you have, after all, always had permission, within wide limits to go ahead and do any damn fool thing you wanted to) rather, he is pointing out a metaphysical impossibility: you can’t get away from a love that will not let you go…. Grace makes itself abound. There is no need – and no way – of forcing its hand. – Robert F Capon, Between Noon and Three
So breathe deep, cease wringing your hands and peering over your shoulder, weary one. There’s no shoe waiting to drop and there’s nothing you can do to have that meal ticket revoked. You can lay in the doorway face-down, doubting that it has been paid for, but I’m telling you, you’re free to get up and enjoy the unending buffet of grace.
You’re loved, period.
“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God aides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in the world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” 1 John 4: 15-18a