Riddle: Once you get it, you have to give it; and if you can’t give it, you never got it. What is it?
God’s grace is radical. God’s grace is so radical that it doesn’t just change the rules; it overrules the rules. It makes the rules no longer necessary. God’s grace creates a fundamental change in the way we relate to God. It rewrites the book on religion and the whole idea of pleasing God. The idea behind religion is to find out what God wants us to do and not do, and try to follow it to the best of our ability. Whether it’s crawling on our hands and knees, or confessing, or obeying, or memorizing, or chanting, or meditating, or sacrificing, or flagellating oneself, none of it means anything in light of God’s grace, because God’s grace does not depend on anything from us. That’s what makes it so hard on one hand and so easy on another. Hard, because we can’t do anything to get to Him, and easy, because He has already done everything to get to us.
This is why “religious” people don’t know what to do with the grace of God because they are people who have to do something. They can’t just accept a free, unearned gift, because then they can’t take any credit for it, and if they can’t take any credit for it, then they can’t judge anyone. There’s no one to judge if we’re all undeserving. Where’s the pride in that? There’s no caste system, no levels of Nirvana, no spiritual pecking order. If you accept God’s grace as a free gift, then you take your place along with the lowest of the low, because grace puts everybody on the same level. Grace is only for those who are undeserving of it, and there are no levels of “undeservedness” (my own word). We’re all on the bottom, and He lifts us all up, and no one can take any credit for their seat at the table because they just showed up for the banquet and found their name tag, and sat down, and are pretty clueless about anything else, except that they can’t believe their good fortune to even be there in the first place.
And this is why Grace Turned Outward is nothing we achieve; rather, it’s a sign that the grace we received is really God’s grace. Once you receive something so wonderful and so entirely unearned and undeserved, well, you quite simply want everyone else to have it, too. Grace Turned Outward is evidence of Grace Taken Inward. It bubbles over, like the woman at the well who excitedly ran home and brought the whole town out to meet Jesus because He knew everything about her and still accepted her. The whole town!
Once you get it, you have to give it; and if you can’t give it, you never got it.