Change requires courage – not the courage to work harder or try more, although that certainly comes into it.
The courage I am talking about is the courage to have an honest look at your own heart. The plague or cheap grace that we see in the western church is the result of a broad, generalised application of grace to people and their issues.
We tend to smear ‘grace' around that does not lead to change. Grace seems to be the answer to everything. ‘God loves you,’ we say, ‘He forgives you.’ But for what? What did I really do? Was it just a mistake or something more sinister?
Paul says in Romans 2:4 that it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. That’s true… but grace is like a jigsaw piece – the more precisely it maps on to the need, the more effective it is. We try to apply grace to many things and, like a jigsaw piece, it goes close to fitting in many places. The truth is, though, that dysfunctional grace can be avoided by a specific application of it to the seat of the problem. And that is where courage comes in.
Jeremiah 17:9 says
‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?’
The answer to this rhetorical question is that God is the one who understands it, and he wants us to see our own heart in its unadorned, excuse free, scapegoating free, unvarnished form. And that takes courage.
Very few of us either want or have the courage to take a close look at ourselves and see where grace is needed and where grace fits.
May we pray with the Psalmist:
‘Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me …’
When he finds a wicked way in us, may we, by the help of the Holy Spirit, be prepared to look directly at it, and then we will be in a place where His kindness will fit our need and His grace will lead to repentance.