Thursday, July 13, 2006

Galatians 2 Stingy or Relentless Grace

Galatians 2:11-21
Stingy or Relentless Grace

Do you ever get frustrated when people use a word and you are not sure what it means, but it seems like you would be foolish to ask. I felt that way about the word grace for a long time.

Grace seems to have a hundred and one different uses, and it has a hundred one different meanings. Think about all of the different ways we use the word grace:
We call someone a gracious host, we say “grace” around the dinner table, ballerinas move gracefully, we leave waiters and waitresses a gratuity of 15%. When we take communion or get baptized we call them a “means of grace.” We Christians have this phrase, we are saved by grace through faith, not by works.

The rock star Bono, of U2, sings “Grace makes beauty out of ugly things” We sing a (Chris Tomlin Remake) “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saves a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found.”

I hate to say it, but the scriptures don’t make the word any simpler to understand. Variations of the word are used hundreds of times, in many different ways. The standard definition seems to be that grace is “God’s favor toward human beings.” So in this case, God redeemed and picked the Hebrew people, that was grace. The gift of the law, that was grace,

Even though it’s the same Greek word for grace, the New testament translates grace into other similar words like “thank” “favor” “credit” “blessing” and “approved” or “Loving help”. The New Testament describes Jesus’ death and resurrection as the ultimate act of grace. Acts chapter 14, and 20 call the story of Jesus life, death, and resurrection as the “Gospel of Grace.”

Paul uses the word grace as shorthand for the gospel story, and the freedom we have to serve Christ.

Our definition might be: God’s relentless favor towards human beings in the Gospel Story. This would bring us back to the Gospel being the WHOLE story of God’s interaction with humanity

1. The creation story: humans as Eikons) of God (created in the Imago Dei.
2. The fall story: humans as cracked Eikons (fallen).
3. The story of God with his people: Israel’s history and the Church’s history.
4. The Cross: where the story of God’s work finds its focus,
5. The Resurrection: where the story of God’s work is unleashed with power.
6. Pentecost: where the story of God’s work is spiritually empowered.
Paul in Galatians gives us this picture of God who is relentless about grace, and warns us how reserved if not stingy Humans are with Grace.

We are going to read about Paul catching Peter reserving the Grace of God for a select group.

Read Galatians 2:11-21

High School Story (Josh, Gus, Joey and Ben)

The easiest way for all of us to feel this story is to imagine with me, that you are back in High School. Think back on the groups in your school (jocks, Smart kids, Popular crowd, outsiders, the ethnic groups). Where were you?
I can remember coming off an amazing summer at camp in between my Sophomore and Junior year. I was honestly filled with the Grace of God ready to love anyone. In my first class I recognized a new kid named Josh from California. We quickly connected and before I knew it I was hanging out at his house and inviting him to Church. Then Josh connected me with the other friends he had made Gus, Joey and Ben. I had been around these guy for a few year, but never really connected. With Josh as a bridge we built a friendship and they started coming to church and hanging out.
It did not take to long before I started to notice a problem. The old crowd that I had worked my whole life to get into did not accept Josh, Gus, Joey or Ben. As the school year wore on I made more and more choices to exclude these 4 from activities. I pulled back my favor

When Peter comes to town he is an honored guest. Powerful in the spirit and probably extremely encouraging a uplifting to be around. He is going from home to home eating with all those who will accept him.

Then some of his Jerusalem Buddies show up. They are friends Peter has been hanging with his whole life, they are in the group. And Peter looks around at his company and starts pulling his FAVOR (grace) back from some of those less tidy homes. He stops visiting some of those questionable people.

The guy with his foot always in his mouth
The guy who denied Jesus 3 times
Forgiven Resorted
The one who was filled with the Holy Spirit
First spokesman for the Gentiles

Peter Gets stingy with God’s Grace

I see a God reflected in the Bible and know in my life to be Relentlessly offering his favor. I think we get a picture of what God is like when we observe Babies. Have you been to an airport recently? Airports are becoming these interesting places were most people go into a Bubble. They hold back favor and grace because there are just to many people, and to many people they don’t know. But if you watch most babies every person they look at or sit next to they will engage that person, they will smile. They have not yet developed a criteria for offering Grace.

I spent a few seconds amazed that Peter could be such a hypocrite. Amazed that after experiencing the Grace of Jesus in his life so many times. He had lived the whole Gospel. How could he be making these mistakes. Then I got over the fact that even the greatest Human leaders need correction, and started doing some Self evaluation and reflection.

Am I stingy with God’s Grace or Relentlessly reflecting his Favor?

When I was in High School I pulled my grace back from those who needed it and unfortunately a Paul did not come around to correct me. Josh stayed connected in his relationship with God and continues to be a great example of a Grace giver. Gus, Joey, and Ben all saw my hypocrisy and left the church. All three have spent some time in some occult practices. Gus I know is still involved in some dark areas of life.

Now even Peter slipped into these habits of stinginess, and I want us to ask our selves. Where we are stingy with God’s Grace? In the Spirit of Paul I want us to NAME our Hypocrisy.


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