I learned early in life that things aren’t always what they first seem. What looked to six-year-old me like a murder in the making, turned out to be nothing nearly so nefarious. After tearful consultation with my mother about a possible rescue mission, I learned from her that momma cats aren’t trying to kill their kittens when they pick them up by the neck, crying and mewing, and carry them off to an undisclosed location. (Life on a farm can get complex pretty fast!)
In my last entry on grace, I talked about how Isaiah witnessed the holiness and power of the Lord and immediately assumed the worst: “Woe is me!” Isaiah feared for his life when he realized how unworthy he was to approach the King in such a sinful state; instead of using his power to punish, though, God chose to forgive. Through the redemptive powers of God’s loving grace, Isaiah became “holy and blameless” in the eyes of God. Not quite the death sentence Isaiah had first expected.
In the opening doxology of Ephesians, Paul reminds his Jewish listeners of this ancient call, but he doesn’t stop there: “In [God] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will… In [God] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit…” (Eph. 1:11-13).
Paul says the Lord has called EVERYONE – Jew and Gentile – back to him. Because of God’s lavish grace, all who believe may live in the presence of God as a part of the Church, Christ’s body, of which Jesus is the head (Eph. 1:22-23). The question, I think, for the universal Church today is this: How will we answer God’s call?
Paul’s doxology – a listing of God’s spiritual blessings, one cascading into the next, three times acclaiming “to the praise of his glory” – leads one to ask… How can we possibly accept such gifts from God and not respond with the same zeal as Paul? No longer are we separated from our Maker. God calls us! Through no action of our own, but by grace alone, God has redeemed us! God has adopted us! God has united us in Christ!
What looked like unavoidable death, is now eternal life.
So how do we respond? To start with, I believe the Church should fall on our corporate knees in gratitude for the grace of God, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the bonding together with every other Christian in Christ, and work to strengthen the entire body through our individual voice, enthusiasm, and action.
Theologian Karl Barth writes, “Grace is not a state of being; peace is not a commodity to possess. Both are gifts we receive over and over again.” In other words, grace and peace aren’t static. They’re dynamic, constantly being given to us by God as we need them. Every day (maybe even multiple times a day!), God calls me and says, “It’s okay. I’ve got you,” and I wonder… how have I been answering him? Have I answered with love? Have I answered in ways that strengthen the body of Christ?
God calls. He always has, does, and will.
How will I answer?