God designed us to be recipients of His Gospel and carriers of His Gospel. I believe relationships are the bridge that the Gospel travels upon and that grace is the accelerant. Every single relationship, even every encounter for the Christ-follower, is an opportunity to get and to give of the grace of God.
There may be no better example of grace-based relationships than the book of Philemon, penned by the Apostle Paul while in prison. First of all, the Gospel of grace for each of us is in full view as we see this runaway slave being forgiven first and foremost by God. Paul proudly announced he has become his spiritual father as this young former slave is made a new creation and given a new identity. As the gospel is in every book of scripture, there it is in full view in this one-page, one-chapter classic. A key point to help us give and get grace is this, ‘Before the story unfolds in human relationships it unfolded in a relationship to God when Onesimus is saved by God’s grace!’
Now, out of that gracious gift, the Apostle Paul begins to do what some would call ‘a bit of meddling’. Meddling or not, our missional call is certainly a call that challenges all preconceived notions of safety and normalcy. Here are a few observations of the call to us to do relationships graciously:
– Onesimus, a new Christian, is challenged to return to a scene from his past for the purpose of reconciliation. Do you remember the first call on your life after Jesus saved you? It might have seemed big and it probably was. Even now, there are places and people in need of reconciliation that will not find it without the grace of God. To be reconciled requires at least one party (and sometimes both) to knowingly walk into a situation where things could go poorly if God doesn’t show up. This is the crossroads of grace and faith. We will rarely ‘Get Grace’ in life if we don’t walk into places where grace is needed.
– Philemon, a leader in the church, is called to live in forgiveness to a person the world would give him permission to kill. Not only is this ministry leader called to forgive his former slave but he is even called to see him, not as a slave, but as a brother. Often, we seek to apply God’s grace thinly where He calls us to be lavish. No skin deep religion here…God is calling us to seek out the hard spots of our past and let His grace flow through us. To ensure we are ‘Giving Grace’, we must ensure that we are facing the hurts of our own past in full view of God’s forgiveness of us and our past.
Like Onesimus, we are called to walk into difficult situations where we must rely upon God and His grace. Like Philemon, we are called to express the Gospel in action by applying grace where it seems hardest to apply. There are relationships waiting even now for us to engage in this way. The Gospel of God’s Grace through Christ fills you for this purpose: to best give grace to those who need it and to get grace from unlikely places!