“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved…”
We all know that old saying, “there’s nothing surer than death and taxes.” But this year, as we continue in our Easter season, neither death nor taxes is sure. On Easter Sunday we celebrated Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and today, what should be tax day – April 15th – we celebrate the IRS’s grace as they give us until Monday, April 18th to file our taxes.
Grace – a word that we often tend to misinterpret or misconstrue. This year’s delay in tax day can help us better understand grace. Grace is often defined as unmerited favor, or an undeserved break. We didn’t do anything to deserve an extra weekend to file our taxes; the government just gave it to us. In the same way, there is nothing we can do to earn God’s forgiveness since we are all sinners. God, through grace, just offers us forgiveness. It is by grace that we are saved.
But too often, we also think of grace as a pat on the head with God saying, “There, there; it’s alright. I’ll forgive you no matter what you do.” Grace then appears to be God’s acceptance of us just as we are, with no expectations of growth or change on our part. If we consider grace in light of the tax comparison, however, we can say that just as the IRS has given us an extra weekend but still expects us to file our taxes, so God is willing to forgive us, but still expects us to grow as disciples. We aren’t saved by grace in order to keep doing everything wrong and make no effort to do better.
Grace is God’s wonderful gift of forgiveness and mercy that wipes the slate of our sin clean and invites us to do better next time. God does understand when we slip and fall back, but God is not inviting us to stay the way we were with no effort to be better. There’s a saying from the black church, “Lord we ain’t what we should be and we ain’t what we gonna be, but thank God, we ain’t what we was!” That’s a good way to think about grace – we aren’t yet the heavenly angels we hope to be someday nor are we perfect in living our lives as disciples today, but thank God, we aren’t the sinners living apart from God that we once were. The invitation from God is to grow closer to God, to grow deeper in relationship with the Lord, and to grow in our commitment and effort to live as God’s people every day, always by grace.
Prayer: Loving God, by grace you have saved me from the consequences of my sin, and offered me entrance into your eternal kingdom. May I recognize that gift, and in gratitude, live my life as your beloved child, always striving to honor you in all I do. Forgive me when I fail, but give me the strength to try always to live as Jesus lives. For it is in Jesus’ name that I pray. Amen.