You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because He’s such a nice God, He’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but He’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change. Romans 2:3-4 (MSG)
Do you know that friend—maybe it’s a spouse, a sibling or a life-long friend—who can tell you when you’re being a jerk? God has blessed me with some great friends. Friends who know me well enough that they can see through my façade. Friends who love me enough to call me on it. I’ve had friends point out my hypocrisy, my self-delusion, my ill-conceived plans. Sometimes it was a loving nudge. Sometimes it was with sarcastic mocking. Each time they got the point across—something needed to change.
Just about everyone says they want to hear it. Until, it stings—then people often prefer some anesthetizing platitude. You can tell your real friends from the fake ones—real friends will tell you the truth. Your best friends will risk hurting your feelings to help guide you back onto a constructive path.
Consider Paul your BFF today.
Paul laid out the sins of the corrupt evildoers in a tidy list in chapter 1. I appreciate that—I like lists. Paul made it clear the problem with those folks is the object of their worship—all the evil those people act out comes from that misguided worship—they made themselves their own god. He painted a picture of unmistakable willfulness and sin. Just as we were all on the same side, pointing and chanting, “You are the bad guys! Thank God, I’m not like YOU” Paul abruptly stops the chant and says, “Wait—we are all the same!”
Then Paul does what only a friend would do. He points out the obvious—the detail you are so willing to overlook. Paul can do that—he’s earned enough street cred to be bold. If you don’t know Paul’s story—he started out with the name Saul (Paul is the Latin version of his name). He was religious with a capital “R.” He determined to squelch Christianity. Today we’d call him a terrorist.
Then Saul met Jesus face-to-face. How awkward. Certainly, you’ve been chatting about a coworker you don’t care for as that very person walked up behind you. You’ve experienced the hot, uneasy feeling as you looked that person in the eye—trying to maintain your composure and dignity. Saul met Jesus on his way to Damascus—on his way to kill those who claimed Jesus is the Messiah. Talk about awkward. That meeting changed Saul’s life.
Honesty AND change—no one said Christianity was easy. Grace is amazing—it’s not simple. God is loving and kind but as The Message paraphrases it, “He’s not soft.”
God’s grace is a call to change. You will not change unless there is a reason to change. You’ll never understand the reason you need to change unless you understand that God compares you to His holiness. It’s easy for me to be better than you. It’s easy for you to be better than me. Neither of us can ever be good enough if we compare ourselves to God.
Looking at God face-to-face is so painful many people avoid it altogether. It’s so painful many religious people substitute a list of rules for the honest change God requires.
What is that honest change?
Abandon worshiping your effort to be good enough and throw yourself on God’s mercy. With grace—that undeserved favor—God will transform you into the person He wants you to be. God will do all the work and He’ll get all the glory.
Father, Thank You for Your grace and mercy. Thank you for the honesty of scripture. Thank You for Your kindness, love and mercy that leads me to new life in You. Help me to accept this radical life-change. Teach me to stop depending on my willful efforts and to start relying on You to make the change in my heart that You want.