For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result works, so that no one may boast. [Eph 2:8,9]
In this famous verse, St Paul succinctly states the Christian Gospel: we are saved from sin and death, and saved into fullness of life and eternal life, not by anything that we do, but by God’s grace and doing alone as a gift, which we receive by faith. That sounds like a pretty good deal! You’d think any person would just have to say “YES!” to it and never look back.
The hitch is, if we accept that this is the way things really are, then we have to accept that this means that we can never boast. That’s a problem, because every human being naturally gets their sense of self-worth and wellbeing from boasting.
It’s true! Middle-class people say, “poor people just didn’t work as hard or smart as me, and rich people just got it handed to them by stupid luck, but I deserve what I got!” Poor people say, “those middle class and rich people are crooks who just got an unfair advantage, but I’ve really done it tough and honest – I’m a better type of person than them!” And the rich?… well, they just scoff, “we’re obviously the best type of person – why else are we better off than everyone else?!” The bad say, “I’m really smart; that’s how I get ahead, not like all those other stupid suckers!” The good say, “I’m obviously a much better person than all those morally corrupt types!” The Christians say, “I’m doing God’s will; therefore, I’m approved!”
Everybody boasts. Grace means death to this way of life. Therefore, by nature we all hate grace!… But when we see and taste the salvation and fullness of life that come only from grace, we will gladly let all our pride and boasting die, and be true lovers of grace.
Grace upon grace, Jonathan