One of the things that I love about listening to kids is the simplicity in which they communicate. It has been a long time since I used the statement “infinity plus one”, I’m sure you have heard it before, it is the classic line used to “one up” your friend. Infinity +1, if you look it up you will find that it is actually a complex mathematical concept that can confound some of the brightest minds. I prefer to define it like a six-year-old might, as a “whole bunch”.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians uses a similar line to describe the love of God for his people, “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (3:18b) This is a part of Paul’s prayer for the people who are rooted in Christ’s love to grasp or understand the infinite love that God has for us. When I consider the width, length, height and depth of His love I think of a “whole lot”, like that of a six-year-old. Under this umbrella of love, we experience the gift of grace that is poured out continuously in our lives. In terms of measurement (because as humans we need to measure everything) in respect to God’s love, grace and mercy in our lives I like to think like this: Width describes the breadth of love that God has for every person in every place on this big earth. Length, this is an everlasting (never ending) love that began in that divine moment when He created mankind and follows through into eternity with him. Height measures the distance that puts God’s love so high, (out of reach) that no one person or being can take it away. Depth, even our deepest thoughts and finite wisdom cannot comprehend the incredible measure of love that our God has for us.
One thing that I can tell you with confidence and without a doubt in my mind is that God loves you. His love, grace and mercy is there for all of us to live in, he calls us to be in a relationship with Him through his Son, Jesus Christ. In response to God’s love for us Paul calls us to this action, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”(5:1-2). In other words, take what the Lord has given to you (love, grace and mercy) and let it overflow, beyond measure to those around you because this is what’s he does for you.
Do you know what a clapperboard is? It’s a tool used in the process of filmmaking, it’s that black and white board that contains some sort of scribbled handwriting that means something to someone and makes the “clap” sound when the clapstick is struck down. This device assists in the synchronizing of the motion picture and sound. During post filming production, the audio and video tracks can be precisely matched to create a seamless film experience. The director calls “action”, the person holding the clapperboard “claps” or cue’s the scene and the filming begins.
The apostle Paul calls us to action repeatedly in his writing. In many ways Paul gives us cue’s to living a life holy and pleasing to the Lord, a kind of “syncing” to His will. Paul often opens his letters to the church with statements like, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father” and “Grace and peace to you” and he often finishes in the same fashion. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians closes his letter with what I would call a serious call to action. “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (6:24). An undying love can also be translated as everlasting, indestructible, inextinguishable, constant, deathless or perpetual love. Notice that the text reads “all those who love our Lord”, often we describe God’s love for us in these terms but here we as believers are called to reciprocate that love in the same way.
An unmerited, undeserved gift that is freely given to us as believers by God, that is what grace is. Paul, speaking to God’s holy people reminds them (and us) of the kind of love we must have for our Heavenly Father. Out of our passion for God flows compassion for others. This is a compassion that draws others into seeing the incredible power of grace, forgiveness, love and mercy. Paul’s instructions for Christian living include a picture of how we as God’s people need to show grace to others; be kind and compassionate to one another (grace), forgiving each other (grace), just as in Christ God forgave you (grace).(Eph. 4:32). God’s word is our clapperboard in life, it is a call to action. It holds the important information that helps us live our lives in accordance to His will (synchronizing). Because of His forgiveness and grace, we have been given many more “takes” on life than we deserve.
“In Vancouver it was illegal to sell a stove on a Wednesday from 1947 to 1986. In Alberta it’s illegal to set fire to the leg of a wooden-legged man. Purple garage doors are against the law in Kanata, Ontario. In Canada it is illegal to challenge someone to a duel or accept an invitation to a duel. It is illegal to remove a band aid in public in Canada”. As crazy as this sounds, these laws at one time were written in our nations law books. In some ways, this is reminiscent of the laws we read about centuries ago during the time of Moses, the law given to God’s chosen people, Israel.
In the book of Romans, Paul has some very thought provoking and enlightening words to explain the relationship between law and grace. “… we have been released from the law (by the grace of God given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus) so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code (the law of Moses).” Paul does not dismiss the law all together in this narrative, “I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law… So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” (7:12). The law continues to call us as believers to be obedient to the commands of the Lord, it calls us to a moral and ethical purity that we can only stand true in through His grace and forgiveness. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that these things can be accomplished.
Sin has a heavy grip on all our lives and relentlessly battles to pull us away from what is holy and true. We like Paul might have the desire to do what is good but because of sin, we do not do what we want. Romans 7:25 reminds us of the mindset that keeps us “on track”. Paul writes, “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” It is only by God’s grace, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we can overcome death (sin). Sin separates us from God; grace breaks the hold that sin has on our lives, offering forgiveness (something the law could not do) and draws us back to Him. The law cannot set us free from sin and death, it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of our Father in heaven that he pours out on us that we will be free to spend eternity with Him.
There are many things around us that we often take for granted, and in many ways don’t even recognize as an incredible blessing. For example, the clean air we breathe, a home, freedom, an abundance of food, family, advanced technology, running water, education… the list could go on. Living where I do, I have easy and unlimited access to all these things. This is not the case for everyone around this great planet. There is one thing that each and every one of us have access to, it makes all the above things pale in comparison. It is GRACE, God’s grace to be exact.
What is it? GRACE that is. The book of Romans gives us a great look into GRACE. Paul, a man who personally experienced the GRACE of God in his life helps us understand what GRACE is through his letter to the Romans. Let me break it down for you; “G”, GRACE is a gift that we receive through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (1:5). “R”, GRACE releases us from the law and binds us to Christ. (Romans 7). “A”, We have been given access to God’s GRACE through Christ, both now and forever as faithful and obedient believers (5:2). “C”, we have been chosen (11:5) and called (1:7) to live in the GRACE that is freely given through Christ, chosen not because of what we have done but because of the love that He has for us. “E”, everyone, Jew and Gentiles (you and I) as Paul describes are included in God’s plan of salvation, we as believers are called to obedience that comes through faith in Him.
Mercy, love, compassion, kindness, favour, goodwill. These words all in some way stand under the “umbrella” of GRACE. Do we take these things for granted? We may not realize it at times but we can become complacent in our faith, we can lose sight of the incredible gift of GRACE from God that He continually pours out into us. Our daily lives and interactions with others are filled with good days and hard days. One day we may feel loved by those around us, other days we may feel invisible or hurt. The great thing about God’s love and GRACE is that it never fails, it is the same day in and day out. There is so much goodness flowing through the GRACE of our Heavenly Father, for this we are greatly blessed.