What is grace? This is the question running through my head as I wrestle with a bit of discouragement as children continue to be harmed by well-meaning people who want so badly to obey God in their parenting. As I continue to hear the same comments from pro-spankers who seem almost desperate to defend themselves for fear of being wrong. As I hear on the morning news that two teenagers were shot and killed by their own mother because they were being “mouthy.” As a book that advocates spanking infants may be being used by people that I know. What is grace? Who deserves grace? Is the Bible Truth or something that can be used however we want in order to support our own beliefs? What does it mean to be Spirit led and to take up our crosses and follow Jesus? Why do some Christians proclaim, “God hates fags?” Why is there so much division in the Body of Christ when God commands us to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” Philippians 2:2?
Another thing that keeps popping up in my mind and during my Bible study is the following verse:
“So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” Zechariah 4:6.
This verse is in context with an angel showing Zechariah a vision seemingly related to the coming of a future Messiah to rescue the people. Yesterday in church, the pastor discussed the uneventful way that Jesus quietly came on the scene amidst the crowds that were waiting by the Jordan River in order to be baptized by a relative, John The Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17). Everyone thought that the Messiah would come and mightily restore Israel with a mighty sword. But instead, Jesus came as an infant and lived in humble settings. He didn’t even look like a powerful king that everyone expected Him to be. Look how Isaiah the prophet described Jesus:
“He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” Isaiah 53:1-3.
Is this what God meant in Zechariah 4:6b? “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.” Possibly. Especially since Christ didn’t come on Earth by might nor power. But what about grace? We actually can see the first act of grace given to man by God in Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve were tempted by the devil and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In the midst of telling Adam and Eve about the consequences that are to come to them and all of mankind because of their sin, God allows them to live until their natural lives ran out, and God allowed them to multiply—having children! In all reality, Adam and Eve did not deserve to go on living after sinning against God—NONE OF US DO! But God let them live and allowed them to multiply. God is huge. He is bigger than any of us can imagine. He is the most powerful Being of the entire universe. He could have easily wiped Adam and Eve off the face of the Earth and started over, creating new people who would constantly obey and worship Him like robots, but He didn’t! Then in Genesis 4 we see Cain murder Abel. Again, grace shows up when God puts a seal of protection on Cain before allowing him to wander out from His Presence and marry and have his own children (Genesis 4:13-18). This continues throughout the entire Bible with its climax being Jesus healing, forgiving, loving, extending grace and mercy to people who did not deserve it. He bared our punishment for us that we might live! “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” John 3:36.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” John 10:28.
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6.
But again, what is grace and who deserves it? I think about the Samaritan women at the well. Jews did not associate with Samaritans. Yet in John 4:1-42, we see Jesus, a Jew, ask a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. Then we see Jesus engage the woman in conversation. Again, this was unheard of for that time period. When Jesus’ disciples come back and find Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman, they quite surprised (John 4:27). In the midst of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman, her sinful life gets revealed. Yet, how does Jesus handle her? Let’s look:
“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he” John 4:10-26.
Jesus reveals Himself as the Messiah to her! He did not condemn her because she was a Samaritan or because of the sinful life that she was living. He gracefully offered Himself to her and she not only believed, but went and told other Samaritans about Him. They came to see Jesus as well and they too believed (John 4:39-42). He offered forgiveness to all of them despite Him being a Jew and God Himself! Is this grace? I believe so.
But, again, I must ask what is grace? Who deserves grace?
I think of the woman who wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair, and then anointed Him with sweet perfume in Luke 7:36-38. The woman was a sinner, and the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dine with him was appalled that Christ didn’t seem to know who this sinful woman was that was touching Him. “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner” Luke 7:39. Religious teachers of the Law did not associate with “sinners” like this particular woman who may have been a prostitute. And yet, we see that Jesus didn’t shrink away or become angry with her for wiping His feet with her hair. How does He respond knowing exactly who she was, and knowing the Pharisee’s thoughts about what was happening? Let’s look: “Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:40-50.
Allow me to point out that people’s feet during New Testament times were quite dirty from walking barefoot with sandals on dirt roads. So the fact that this woman was washing Jesus’ feet with her hair and tears shows that she more than likely knew that Jesus was more than just a “teacher.” But, Jesus, being God, knew exactly who this woman was and what she had done. Again, instead of condemning her as the Pharisee did, He FORGAVE her and rebuked the Pharisee for his lack of hospitality. He also used this moment to try and teach the Pharisee about forgiveness instead of punishing either the Pharisee or woman. Grace!
I think of the 3-year-old who doesn’t pick up when Mommy says to. Mommy asks, “Are you going to obey or do you want a spank?” For whatever reason, the child does not obey even though the child knows what’s about to happen. Mommy says, “Ok, let’s go to your room.” The child begins to cry and plead, “Please don’t spank me, Mommy!” The child’s heart is racing as he cries, struggles to get away. Mommy calmly holds him and says, “You didn’t obey me when I asked you to pick up your toys. Jesus wants me to discipline you.” Then she calmly slaps the child’s bare bottom a few times as the child cries out in pain. Then she holds him and tells him how much she and Jesus love him, but that he must obey Mommy. As the child tries to calm down, his bottom still stinging, he mutters, “I’m sorry.” Though the child doesn’t truly feel sorry. He has learned that this makes Mommy happy. As they pray and hug again, he’s relieved it’s over even though deep down pain is gnawing at him. He happily runs out and plays—until the next time he misbehaves or doesn’t obey…
I think of a 2-year-old in a similar situation. Mommy says, ”It’s time to pick your toys. Please put them in the bucket.” “No!”says the child. Mommy says, “I know you were having fun playing with your toys, but it’s time to clean up. Please help me.” Mommy puts a toy in the bucket as the child watches with somewhat of a defiant look on his face. Mommy asks, “Are you going to pick up your toys or do you need me to help you?” The child says, “No!” and starts to run off. Mommy stops him and says, “I see you need help.” She picks him up as he struggles and cries. She holds him firmly and says, “I’m sorry this makes you angry. I will hold you for a minute while you calm down, then we will pick up your toys.” The child cries then begins to melt into Mommy’s body knowing that he’s safe and that she isn’t allowing him to spin out of control. She gently puts a toy in his hand while slowly scooting to the bucket. He looks at the toy and then at the bucket, still feeling Mommy’s gentle but firm hold on him as he sits in her lap. He slowly drops the toy into the bucket and looks up at Mommy. Mommy smiles and says, “Thank you!” This continues until all his toys are picked up, only laughter becomes louder and louder as they take turns putting toys in the bucket! Then the child proudly gets off Mommy’s lap, picks up the bucket and puts it on the shelf. Then he runs back to Mommy where once again he’s embraced in her firm, loving arms. She says, “Thank you for picking up your toys! I love you sooo much and so does Jesus!” Then she begins singing “Jesus Loves Me” with him as he snuggles deeper into her arms.
“32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots” Luke 23:32-34.
“But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many” Romans 5:15.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” Ephesians 1:7.
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” Hebrews 4:16.
We are free from sin and the death and pain that comes through sin because of God’s amazing grace. Grace that we don’t deserve one bit. Shouldn’t we pass that on to our children as they learn to obey us?
“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21.
Grace is for everyone!
How sweet the sound,
That save a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see!”
Thank you for reading this sample from the book, “Gentle Firmness.”
Spanking is NOT God’s Will by Steph is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.whynottrainachild.com.