I’ve been thinking about grace a lot lately. It seems like everywhere I turn, Ephesians 2 shows up.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

I have heard that verse so many times in my life.  I can quote it.  It is imprinted on my mind.  But, recently I have found myself wrestling with it in a very intense way…questioning if I really believe it, and if I do believe it, do I live like I believe it.

As much as I say that I believe my salvation cannot be earned, I still find myself trying to earn it, trying to earn God’s favor by being obedient.  And when I fail, I try to make up for it by doing “extra” good things, hoping that God will take notice and pardon my failure.

Our need to “do no wrong” cages us into a life of sin management that takes no real risks and trusts in nothing, because somehow we grow to think we can be “good enough.” But, “good enough” is never good enough.

So, why is it so hard for me to just rest in His grace and accept that his love is completely free?

I’ve come to realize that the answer to this question is almost more painful than my striving for the love and acceptance of God: because grace isn’t fair.

I kept asking myself why it’s so hard for me to truly believe that when Christ died on the cross he fulfilled the law.  We are no longer bound to it, but like generations of Christians before us, we keep putting in on us, weighing ourselves down by rules that we believe will gain us favor with God when we obey them.  But, the truth is that we will always fail, and the law will always condemn us.

The truth is that grace isn’t fair, and we live in a culture that demands fairness.

I think about Jonah.  He didn’t want to go preach to the people in Nineveh because he knew that if they repented, God would forgive them.  He knew that grace was at the center of God’s character and didn’t think that they deserved grace and forgiveness.  So, he didn’t want to go.

Sometimes I think I am guilty of putting Christian rules on top of salvation, because I know grace is what saves us, and it is truly based on God’s unmerited, immeasurable love for us.  It isn’t fair.  And, I don’t think it’s fair that it isn’t fair.

But, would we really want it to be fair?

Because as good as I think I am, I am not good.  I am not holy.  I don’t deserve God’s grace, much less His love.  It was in my filth that God reached down and saved me.  It wasn’t fair.  Just like the grace given to the murderer, or the rapist, or the thief, or the little old man who has sat in the pew for 50 years.

So, where do our “good deeds” fall into all of this.  After all James says:

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world….Faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead.”

The motive of our obedience isn’t to earn favor.  That obedience to the word of God is useless.  Our motive as Christ followers is just that–to follow Christ.  It’s not to earn anything, but to reflect Someone.  We love others; we keep ourselves “unspotted from the world”; we obey the voice of God, not to earn anything, but to lead others to know Jesus by being Jesus.

Now, that, I can sink myself into.