Eph. 2.8 says:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
I read this the other day and for some unknown reason a picture came to mind of God like a loving parent at a piano recital. I have now been on both ends of this deal, as the kid sweating through “Shenandoah” or the theme from “Chariots of Fire,” and now as a parent watching Emily and Katelyn. If you’ve been either recitaler or recitalee, you know how this goes down. The kid gets up there and plays, maybe well, or okay, or not-so-okay, or train-wreck. But this has no bearing on the reaction of the loving parent, does it? They clap and cheer and hug and video and shed a few tears. And they keep shelling out for those lessons, even if it is a futile endeavor. They may justify it as a good experience or something like that, but it’s really an act of love.
God treats us like that, accepting us no matter how badly we’ve done (or how well we think we’ve done). God’s grace is free and generous, lavish and never-ending, well beyond the patience of even the best human parent. And God’s not like the tone-deaf parent who doesn’t really know how bad the recital went; God knows exactly how it should be played, aware of how all the notes, rhythms, and phrasings are supposed to go. Yet, God cheers us and hugs us and loves us anyway.
As true as that is, that’s not the end of the story. As comforting and encouraging as it is to have parents who support you as you mutilate the music, how much cooler is it to totally r o c k ? It won’t make the parentals love you any more, but isn’t it always better to rock than not to rock? Should the kid take their love and acceptance as a free pass to stink it up, or as a secure foundation from which to pursue excellence boldly?
See the very next verse in Ephesians (the one right after we usually stop quoting) says:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
God’s grace is not contingent on our works; our works don’t earn us anything. But God’s grace does not give us an excuse to slack off and not do any works. We were created for good works. Our sin wrecks all that, but God pours grace into us to re-enable us to do the good that we were created to do.
When you’re playing music, the surest way to mess up is to be afraid that you’re going to mess up. As soon as you think to yourself, “here comes that hard lick, I hope I don’t blow it” – – BAM – – you blew it. Just like you knew you would. Knowing that the people you’re playing with believe in you and won’t blink if you do slip up frees you up to play really well, often times better than you thought you could play.
God believes in your ability to do good because God created you and knows what you are capable of doing and being. God’s grace enables you to do good and is there to cover you when you do slip up. There is absolutely nothing to fear, nothing to lose, by taking the risk to do what God is telling you to do. There is actually everything to gain because with God’s grace supporting you and cheering you on, you will totally rock.