As followers of Christ, we know how and what we are to do to show the world God’s love and grace he has freely given us in Christ Jesus. Jesus sums it up: “He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Sounds rather straightforward. I know I must love God, putting him at the center of my life. I shall have no other God but him. Theoretically it sounds pretty simple. The second part, though, is a little less so. Here I can ask a myriad of questions: Who is my neighbor? Does love really mean love? If I love myself, isn’t that being a bit self-involved? Even with these questions, the commandments of our Lord are not that difficult to comprehend. LOVE GOD FIRST. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR. Ok, I got it! I "know" what I am supposed to do. The words are “easy” to understand.
But, I can’t seem to put my head knowledge into action. Instead I frequently do just the opposite. The Apostle Paul understood this, too: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) These are the thing I want to do: always put God first and love my neighbor (whoever he or she may be). What I actually do is put my own needs and desires before God and treat my neighbor with everything from indifference to contempt to anger to disappointment. I do not do what I want to do. And I know it! “For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:22-24a) I know better than to put God second. I know better than to speak or think poorly of my neighbor. And if we’re going to be honest with each other, you probably do not always put God first or always love your neighbor.
As God’s loved and redeemed children, we need to forgive ourselves when we do that which we do not want to do. Jesus Christ died for us to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. In short, we need to give ourselves grace. We cannot, by definition, give ourselves grace, but we can be open to receiving the gift of grace that is ours in Christ Jesus. This means that we must open our hearts and minds fully to let God’s grace in Christ dwell richly within us, freeing us from the burden of our failure to obey the commandments our Lord has given us.
May the grace of God set you free,