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The radical thing about God’s grace is that it is a gift. Grace is an unearned, undeserved, free gift. Out of the great love God has for us we are forgiven of our sin, and we are free from the worries of salvation for the sake of loving our neighbor.
Now, this idea of grace and freedom is something Martin Luther focused on a lot, so of course as a Lutheran myself I dwell on what it means to receive God’s grace a lot. I have to chuckle to myself because one of the concerns that comes up from non-Lutherans is if this focus on God’s grace will just lead to people feeling compelled to do whatever they want. If I have God’s free, undeserved, grace always, then who cares what I do, or so goes the thought process.
Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer distinguishes what he calls “cheap” grace from “costly” grace, cheap grace being the “do-whatever-you-want” mentality and costly grace being the costly price of Jesus’s life for us to have such a gift. Costly grace is transformational, it frees us for the sake of loving our neighbor. Costly grace is what we as Christians should lean on, trusting that God’s gift of undeserved love and forgiveness is ours, but it is not something we frivolously flaunt to justify diving into unhealthy pleasures.
Or maybe you are like me, who almost struggle with the opposite, and worry if I am doing enough or if I have done wrong and disappointed God. God’s grace cannot be earned, it is freely given, but if you have made a dumb mistake or regret something you wish you would have done better it can be hard to accept God’s grace.
Luther spent his life freeing himself from anxieties of earning God’s favor and here I am the Lutheran pastor worrying about God’s grace for myself!
As Ephesians 2:8 clearly says, it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. God loves you, God loves me, and thanks to the saving power of Jesus Christ we are first and foremost children of God.
It is not your sin or mistakes that define you, it is through God who claims you as you are as God’s own. So, the next time you have anxiety over if God’s grace really is for you, fear not. Do not fear that you are cheapening grace, be comforted knowing that God’s grace will flow over you. A grace that transforms, a grace that forgives, a grace that reminds you that you are loved. So, the next time you find yourself worrying about something you’ve done, may you go in peace knowing that grace is there for anyone who wishes to receive it.
If you have hurt a neighbor, go and reconcile with them. I cannot control how your neighbor will act, but God forgives, for the Bible tells us so.
Matt Spoden is the pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Pierre.
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