Law or Grace Based Living?

In my practice of Christian living, I am clearly drawn to the grace-based model.  I’m not there yet, but that is where I want to be!  I love it how the materials of this class are coming together.  The “collision” of ideas is why I’m in seminary!  I see my personal development in almost all of the stages described by Estep and Kim.  Their description of faith development is where I see the most parallels. (Estep and Kim, p161)  And now that clearly begins to sync up for me with the Boa work on Exchanged Life Spirituality in the description of law or grace based living.  (Boa, p.120)  Only through the achievement of grace based living can I ever hope to reach any level of Estep and Kim’s universalizing stage.  (Estep and Kim, p. 174)

I am clearly drawn to the goal of grace-based living.  Clearly, I’ve spent much of my life in the black and white law-based process, primarily while in the faith development phases up and through the individuative-reflective period.  Using the law or rules of life as we see them, as a base for everyday living was much easier and certain in my early Christian years.  Black and white rules are relatively easy to understand and to follow.  Life in this model is all about what we do, how we use the resources we have, how we obey “the rules” and how others see us from the outside in.  (Boa, p.120)  At the end of each day, you can judge your success against easy to understand standards.  I find great comfort in that structure.

But clearly that is not where God wishes me to be!  Paul wrote it clearly that we “are not under the law but under grace.”  (Boa, p.120)  It is not about what we do but about what has already been done.  It is not about what we do but what God does every day, which sometimes we cannot clearly see.  Life is not about how we use our resources but about becoming a resource for God and his work.  Our success is not how we are judged from the outside-in but from the inside-out, based on our knowledge of how we have lived in faith.
It’s easy to fall on the “rule” that all Baptists know about church attendance!  You go twice on Sunday and every Wednesday.  The modern “law” of a good Baptist dictates you follow this direction.  But what really matters is how you worship and experience God every week, in or out of a building.  If you follow the “rules” and are through the door every time it is open but have no worship experience, it is all really a waste of time.  It does not matter that everyone sees you at church.  It matters that God sees you genuinely worshiping and speaks to you in that experience.

This greatly impacts my relationships with others, especially unbelievers.  It is my responsibility to present them with the message, literally in words and figuratively in actions and lifestyle.  It is up to the Holy Spirit to help them understand and see the message and need for God’s love and grace in their lives.  Whether I follow the “rules” and get them to church to hear a revival message or Bible study isn’t really that relevant.  I should attempt those things but they are not the needed final outcome.
In leadership I look for God’s grace and maturity in others.  I am drawn more to leaders who exhibit it than those who are just about following the rules or the law.  I look for leaders who truly understand the final goal, the big picture.  I seek to be such a leader also.
This has direct implication in my working life as well. I have the privilege of leading a large team focused on achieving financial goals in a large company.  What really matters is the process and effort exhibited by each Team member.  If those are correct, results are achieved!  If I spend all my time as a leader focused on small details and rules, people feel micromanaged and usually don’t succeed.  In business, I also work to apply the grace-based model every day.

This material is fascinating and truly thought provoking on a very personal level.  It really blesses me.

Boa, Kenneth, Conformed to His Image, Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing, 2001.

Estep, James R. and Jonathan H. Kim, Christian Formation:  Integrating Theology and Human Development, Nashville, TN:  B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

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