Friday, August 4, 2017

Grace vs. Performance

When my own personal grasp of the gospel was very weak, my self-view swung wildly between two poles. When I was performing up to my standards—in academic work, professional achievement, or relationships—I felt confident but not humble. I was likely to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. When I was not living up to my standards, I felt humble but not confident, a failure. I discovered, however, that the gospel contained the resources to build a unique identity. In Christ I could know I was accepted by grace not only despite my flaws, but because I was willing to admit them. The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued and that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone.”

Timothy Keller, in his book “The Reason for God—Belief in an Age of Skepticism”

Religion is to constantly perform, trying your best to live up to a certain standard. All humans are religious beings, you don’t have to join a world religion to be religious. People tend to apply religious behavior to all kinds of things; sports, fitness, dieting, parenting, career, strict devotion to a certain ideology etc. Jesus came to end all religion, to free us from the need to measure up to a certain standard, to free us from the need to prove our worth. Ironically though, many Christians have turned Christianity into a religion too.

Religious behavior says: “to be good enough you must be able to live up to this standard (in your career/parenting/sport/world religion etc.)”. God’s love says: “I know you are deeply flawed and if you would just be willing to admit that fact, my grace is waiting for you. My love for you will never be based on your performance, it is freely given, and every time you mess up my forgiveness is already there waiting for you.” Following Jesus is simply to accept God’s love and grace. When I have accepted God’s grace I am free, I have nothing to prove. I can now be confident yet humble at the same time. I can enjoy living a life of love but when I fail I don’t need to beat myself up because I’m already forgiven. My worth is not defined by my performance, it’s defined by God’s endless love for me.

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