Grace-- Better Than We Deserve; Extending Beyond the Boundaries
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)
Earlier this week I received a demonstration of grace from an unexpected place—the Amazon company. I had placed an order the night before, and realized the next morning I needed one more item. Without Prime, to still get free shipping, I had to add it to the existing order.
When I couldn’t find a way to do that online, I called Customer Service and asked for help. The representative responded by first introducing me to the law-- one cannot add items to an order after a few minutes. I was clearly out of bounds and both of us knew it. She explained that my only option was to cancel the order and make a new one.
I thanked her for the suggestion, although this would mean receiving much-needed items even later than before. But, it was my fault, not hers that I hadn’t ordered everything earlier
She continued, “After you cancel it, and make the new order, let me know and I’ll make sure it all ships free and you get it on time.”
I followed her instructions online, placed the order, and she said, “Ok, you will receive a confirmation.” I thanked her again and said “goodbye”, not totally understanding what she had done.
The next morning a package arrived at my door, containing my full, new order! This representative had exercised her authority to grant me Prime-level, one-day, shipping—for free! I didn’t deserve it. Perhaps, as a customer, I deserved to be informed of my right to cancel an order before it ships. But all I really deserved was a longer wait to get my stuff.
Yet grace entered in and gave me better than I deserved, extending beyond the boundaries of stated protocol! Did this invalidate the law? Are law and grace mutually exclusive, each leaving no room for the other?
No way! As Rom. 3:31 states, “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” Grace, received by faith in the grace-giver, recognizes the validity of the law while providing a way to fulfill it that’s beyond our reach.
Such as in this case. Grace was defined by me receiving much-needed products ten days before I was supposed to. If I’d had the right to demand next-day delivery, it would have been “supposed to”, not grace. (Rom. 11:6) Nothing special, no surprise, nothing to get excited about, nothing to really thank the giver for, except for doing their duty.
But grace validated the law by surprising me – “What? It’s here already?! I didn’t expect it this soon!”; making me excited and glad – “Wow! Now I can… with…!”; and instilling gratitude in my heart-- “Thank you, customer-rep, for accomplishing for me what I couldn’t have done on my own!” And ultimately, thanking God, Who gave me that customer-rep.
Which, in turn, reminded me of His own grace, freely given for us in all of life. I’m not getting my theology from online shopping. This situation of receiving something beyond my rights and reach just gave me another great example of how He does that for us all the time.
It also demonstrated our need to appropriate His grace, by faith. What if I had just left the package unopened, telling myself I didn’t deserve it before 10 days from now, or thinking it was just an empty box, some kind of joke? Instead, I’ve been using everything. The same way we need to trust Him enough to receive and enter into His grace
Whenever we sin and repent, He’s there to take us back with open arms, put us back together, and give us another chance to do it right.
Whenever we wander out of bounds, blow it, fail, mess up, the Good Shepherd seeks us out, guides us back, cleans things up, cleans us up, heals us, and puts us back in the game.
Whenever we try so hard to meet the standards, but the bars have all been raised higher than we can attain to, the Holy Spirit lifts us up and empowers us to soar over the bars (picture Olympic pole-vaulter here).
Thank God for His life-giving, life-sustaining, grace!