An Undeserved Gift
Dreams are sometimes perplexing.
Where did that come from, I thought. The dream was so clear it left me anxious.
It wasn’t the kind of dream where you’re caught on the train tracks, desperately trying to free yourself before the locomotive hits you. This scene was from my days when I was a seminary student.
The assigned paper was due, and I hadn’t finished it. Carrying a full load in seminary while planting and pastoring a new church was more ambitious than realistic.
The dream was so vivid. I saw the faces of fellow students, recognized the decor of the classroom, and sensed my emotions as my professor asked me for my paper.
Some dreams come and go. This one lingered on throughout the day.
What’s behind this dream, I wondered. Is there something that I need to notice? Why can’t I stop thinking about it? Nothing was able to distract me from that classroom experience, even my work.
The more I thought about that memory, the more I slowly recalled how I encountered grace that day — many years ago. I remembered my professor saying: “Richard, I recognize the load you carry. Do you think you can have your paper to me next week?”
He wasn’t required to extend the deadline. It wasn’t anything I had done to deserve this kindness. It was a pure gesture of GRACE. My instructor displayed compassion, concern, and care toward me. He offered me a favor that I had not earned.
My dream has caused me to think beyond the walls of that classroom experience. It has helped me remember:
Although I don’t deserve it, I sure do need God’s grace!
I believe that’s true for everyone. But how we interpret grace, or whether we will accept God’s gift of grace, is an individual matter.
My instructor offered me grace. My response to his generous invitation was not just a verbal expression of “Thank you.” I demonstrated it by completing the assigned paper by the “adjusted” deadline.
God initiates grace because He desires a relationship with us. He wants to live, walk, and commune with us. He created us in His image (Genesis 1:27).
“Imago Dei” (image of God) is a theological term that uniquely applies to humans. Because we are created in God’s image, we have the qualities and capabilities that allow a relationship with God.
Although God created me in His image, I frequently fail to reflect God’s righteousness and holiness. But I’m not alone; this is a universal problem.
The apostle Paul reminds us: “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
No human is capable of being wholly righteous, holy, and beyond sin. Paul’s words remind us that even though we fall short of God’s glory, “… [we are] justified [declared righteous] by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
God’s grace is a gift — a compassionate, caring, and considerate offer — one we did not deserve — and something we cannot earn.
It’s “unmerited favor,” expressed in the redemption and complete forgiveness of sinners — like me — through faith in Jesus Christ.
However, acknowledging my sins is uncomfortable. It’s more comfortable for me to recognize my sin as “dysfunction.” It sounds more acceptable than “sin.”
For some reason, it’s tempting to point out the sins of others while missing my own. It’s enticing to suggest that someone else’s sin is somehow more significant than my sin. And it helps to label sins: “That’s just a little white lie,” versus “That’s a major breach of honesty.”
Sometimes it only takes a dream to remind us of an important lesson.
I’m thankful that my professor was kind, considerate, caring, and gracious. I’m more grateful that “God proves his love for [me — and you] in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The definition of sin is secondary to the more significant question:
What will my response be to God’s grace?
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