I am constantly dealing with tension between what I know to be true and how I feel things ought to be. I don’t know how common this is, but I’m reasonably confident it isn’t just me. Normally, this tension exists in the background for me, but every now and then something brings it front and center. This week’s podcast is an incredibly strong example. Intellectually, I know that God’s grace isn’t something I have to be worthy of, but that doesn’t change that I feel like I need to be.
Starting with what I know, the very idea of being worthy of grace is nonsensical. Grace is the unmerited gift of God’s love. Unmerited. How in the world can we possibly square the idea that we should be worthy of a gift we can’t possibly earn? It goes to the very core of our need for a savior. The reason Christ came to Earth for us is because we needed Him to. We couldn’t do what needed to be done. That hasn’t changed in the centuries since. We who have been saved are still every bit as dependent on Christ saving us. If we could be worthy of Heaven through some effort of ours, we would be our own saviors.
I know all this, and they are some of the most certain aspects of the faith to me. So then, why do I still feel the need to try to be worthy of this gift? I could say it’s because I’m a sinful human being incapable of fully living the Truth of Christ, and that would certainly be true. I think there is more to it than that, though. I don’t think our desire to be worthy, to live up to the gifts we’ve been given isn’t purely born out of our fallen nature. I think it actually hearkens back to the Image and Likeness of God in which we were created. As Christians, we believe in the Trinity (Three Divine Persons, One God), which means we are created in the image of a relationship. The mutual complete gift of self in those three persons is what our nature points to.
Our desire to be worthy is, I think, a slight misdirection from that self-gift. We are called to take all of God’s gifts for us and offer them back to Him in worship. Where we mix things up, though, is that we forget what the joy of receiving a gift really stems from. When a gift is received, the joy isn’t primarily because the gift is so good, or because the gift is “worthy” of the situation. The joy is that someone loves us enough that they want to celebrate us and offer something to us. It’s the same with us and God. He wants us to put forth effort, He wants us to strive, but just like a parent doesn’t get mad because their child’s drawing doesn’t really look like them, God isn’t mad when our efforts fall short. He rejoices that we try. So, let’s keep trying.