Sometimes I fear people take my friendship for granted. Which is fine, I think we’d all rather others take us for granted rather than not have one at all to some extent. But I think the abuse of our friends’ graces speak to something bigger – our abuse of God’s graces.
How much do I take God’s grace for granted? It was something that the Roman church struggled with in relation to Paul’s gospel of scandalous grace – Paul anticipated a question from them in chapter 6: so then are you saying we should sin more so that God’a grace can abound all the more in my life? Paul replies with an enthusiastic “Absolutely not!” For, indeed, how can one who is dead in sin still live in sin? But how much do I, do we live thinking that grace automatically covers sin with no side effects?
I worry that people who have this concept of grace that could be called a license to sin, or times when I see grace like this, forget that grace isn’t just some theological construct, but a model by which Jesus lived. John, when he writes his hymn to the Logos in John 1, tells us that Jesus was full of grace and truth. From the fullness of God, we have all received grace upon grace. Grace characterizes Jesus’ life, both his earthly ministry and his heavenly reign now.
Jesus, showing us grace, looks down on sinful humanity and loves them. He came in willful submission to the Father, who sent his Son to redeem us while we were yet God’s enemies. (Romans 5:8) Jesus looks down on those of us whom he saved and continually intercedes for us. (I Timothy 2:9) Jesus showed us his scandalous grace in his death, but he continues to give us grace as he continually intercedes for us to the Father.
I guess this is how I preach the Gospel to myself in these situations. All suffering, whether big suffering as death or torture, or small suffering, like friends coming late or people taking advantage of you, will be used for your good. (Romans 8:28; cf. Genesis 50:10, Romans 5:1-5, etc) When friends are late, when people skip discipleship times, when group seeks more focused on their needs than the group’s, when people can meet about their needs and not mine – anything that makes me wonder if people take me for granted – I ask myself, “have I taken God’s gift of grace for granted this week?” Does our suffering in friendships taken for granted push us to us or to our Lord Jesus?