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Not Knowing How to Receive Grace is Exhausting

This is blog #8 in our series Sabbatical Musings. To catch up with the previous blogs in the series, you can click HERE and it will take you to a page with all of the other blogs

Today's musing is on my most favoritist topic in the whole world- GRACE. In particular, I want to write on why it is so difficult for some people to receive grace and how exhausting it can be when you feel that grace necessitates reciprocation. 

I want to ask you a question right off the bat to see if what I am writing about applies to you or not:

When someone does something nice for you do you feel like you have to reciprocate the grace that you were just given, or do you feel like you can just receive it for what it is: GRACE? 

I want to ask a few more questions along the same vein: 

  • Has someone ever offered to do something for you and you had a difficult time receiving their offer, even though their offer was sincere and genuinely had no strings attached and was given out of grace? 
  • Why was it difficult for you to just simply receive the grace, the help, the care of another? 
  • When someone does something for you, do you feel like you need to in some way "pay it back"? 
  • Has someone ever offered to to something for you and you declined because you thought, "If I say yes to this, then I will have to offer ____________, and I don't have the bandwidth to offer anything right now"? (even though they never asked you to offer anything to begin with and only offered to give. 

It turns into an odd dance.  Someone offers to have your kids come over.  But then you're like, "Well, does that mean that we have to schedule a time to have their kids over for a playdate?  I just don't have time for that in my schedule right now". 

Or the always popular around Christmas time- "I found out that this person is getting me a gift and I did not really have the money to be able to get them a gift in return but since they are getting me a gift, I have to go and get them something". Or, "They got me this big gift but I only got them something small, so I need to spend money I don't have to go and get them something bigger because my small gift looks lame compared to their gift"

Do you really think that person offered to have the kids over or bought you a Christmas present to obligate you to some weird form of repayment?  Isn't it a wee bit strange to presume that someone who obviously cares about you has some strange motive that is actually centered around making you indebted to them? 

It is this type of thinking that makes me HATE the line in the famous hymn, "Come Though Fount of Every Blessing", written by Robert Robinson in 1757 "Oh to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be". 

I love the hymn. We sing it at church. But we changed the line in question because it flies in the face of all that we want to communicate through the teaching of God's Word. 

Before anyone bugs out because they feel like I'm insulting their favorite hymn, I'd encourage you to do some study on the writer of the hymn. My guess is that most in our reformed circles would not embrace the theology that this man held to particularly with regards to grace. That being said, its a beautiful song other than that one line. 

It might sound like semantics, but it is actually a pretty big deal, because...

Grace does not obligate us, it frees us from obligation. Grace does not put us in debt, it frees us from a debt we could have never paid. 

That's why it's so important. It's a Gospel Issue. The Christian life is not a life of paying back a debt that was created by grace. The Christian life is a life of freedom from the debt of sin because of God's grace. 

It can't be payed for. 

We are not working off a debt. 

It is merely something to receive and thank God for it. This results in lives that are devoted to following Jesus out of gratitude for His grace. This is not a debtor mentality. This is the mentality of someone who's be freed from a debt that they could never pay. 

Gratitude and indebtedness are not the same thing.  Grace is not a charge against our account. Grace wipes the account clean. These things could not be more fundamentally different. 

Before I get into the practical problem, I want to just clearly state the theological problem: there are free men and women walking around trying to pay a debt that was already paid in full by Jesus Christ. He did not just take over the deed to the loan. He nailed the deed to the cross. WE ARE NOT DEBTORS! 

This type of thinking bleeds into our relationships with other people as well and it can really distort our ability to receive grace for what it is- grace. Pure. Simple. Wonderful grace. 

Grace is something to receive not to be reciprocated. 

Let me ask you, when you do something for someone that is motivated by grace and love for that person, do you now hold that person in your debt for receiving the gift? So many of the thoughts in this series have come from my studies in the Sermon on the Mount, but as Jesus said, "if you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?" (Matthew 7:11). 

So, if we give and don't expect reciprocation, then why is it so difficult to receive without feeling the need to reciprocate?  

The reason that this is so important to me as a pastor is because there are a lot of people walking around exhausted because they have a theology of grace but have no idea how to receive grace! 

  • They are beyond tired because they do not know how to receive the grace of rest. 

  • Their weeks blend into one another because they don't know how to receive the gift of Sabbath. 
  • They get frustrated or burnt out because they do not know how to receive the grace of receiving help. 
  • When they do receive help, they are exhausted because now they feel like they have to pay the person back for helping them 

And there's where the cycle of reciprocation leads to exhaustion. Grace reminds us that we are not capable of doing it all by the power of our own flesh. Our flesh is finite. We were built to know that we need grace just to get by.  

But when we feel like we have to reciprocate grace then we are fighting against the very thing that would ignite our souls and keep us from becoming brittle. Grace is received with 2 hands empty. It is not a trade or a deal. It is reaching out and receiving something that we did not deserve, given by someone who desired to be a vehicle of grace. 

We undercut the process when we try to go pay it back. 

Grace is greater than that:

  • Grace frees us from the cycle of reciprocation.
  • Grace frees us from the cycle of of obligation. 
  • Grace does not turn us into debtors, it frees us from our debts. 
  • Grace does not make us weary- grace says, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest". 

Brothers and sisters, you are not debtors to grace! That's grace! We are not debtors! 

In love, 

Pastor Eric 

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