When I was a teenager, Terry the pest control man came once a month to spray my parents’ house. We often talked about the Bible. In one conversation I asked him, “What if I murdered lots of people. Would I still be saved?” “Yes.”
Dumbfounded, I said nothing. How could God tolerate such blatant abuse of His grace? Doesn’t God’s grace demand our obedience?
A more important question is this: Do I abuse God’s grace and expect it to continue? I’m afraid sometimes I do. You probably do too. Here are four ways we abuse God’s grace.
1. Returning evil for evil. When people mistreat us, we have a tendency to give them a taste of their own medicine. Besides, they deserve it, right? Perhaps. But is that how God in Christ treated us?
2. Judging others. Nobody’s perfect. When they’re not, we may relish the opportunity to rake them over the coals. We pick them apart mercilessly. But does God do that to us?
3. Neglecting the helpless. Let’s be honest, poor people sometimes get on our nerves. If they’d just get their lives together and get a job, they wouldn’t be on the streets begging for our money. That may be true (in some cases), but weren’t we helpless and poor when God showed us mercy?
4. Refusing to forgive. When people sin against us, we may harbor feelings of bitterness for years. We can’t seem to let it go, even after they beg our forgiveness. But is that how God reacted when we turned to Him for pardon?
These selfish responses to God’s selfless grace are a slap in His face. Sometimes we’re happy to receive His grace but not to share it. God has no patience with that attitude (Matt. 18:35).
God’s grace should motivate us to “pay it forward.” Grace motivates grace (Eph. 4:32). In fact, grace demands grace. Jesus summed up this concept in the statement, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
When we fail to pay God’s grace forward, we exploit it. This is a natural tendency we must carefully avoid. Paul wrote, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
Terry the pest control man had it wrong. God will not tolerate the flagrant abuse of His grace. It’s a gift, not a license; a motivator, not an excuse. So, next time you’re tempted to mistreat your neighbor, remember how God in Christ treated you and do likewise.