God’s Love for the Undeserving
Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are. Categories of worthiness simply don’t apply. ~ Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?
In one of His last acts before His death, Jesus forgave a thief dangling on a cross, knowing full well the thief had converted out of plain fear. That thief would never study the Bible, never attend synagogue or church, and never make amends to all those he had wronged. He simply said “Jesus, remember me,” and Jesus promised, “today you will be with Me in paradise.” It was another shocking reminder that grace does not depend on what we have done for God but rather what God has done for us. [WSAAG, chapter 4]
By instinct, we feel we must do something in order to be accepted, to earn our place in the world and the love and acceptance of others. This concept of earning is built into every human system — and our relationship with divine love is no exception. We work obsessively to please both other people and God. Perhaps this is why we struggle so much to comprehend God’s grace, let alone embody it in our daily lives.
Many of us formed an image of a mathematical God when we became Christians: a great judge who weighs our good and evil deeds on a set of scales and somehow always finds us wanting. We miss the God of the Gospels, a God of mercy and generosity who never ceases to find ways to extend love and give us grace. [chapter 5]
Watch the video for session one. Add to the key points below notes of your own on anything that stands out or prompts a thought or a feeling.
Grace, like water, always flows down to the lowest level.
“Doctors like Will Cooke and C. Everett Koop looked to Jesus, the Great Physician, as their model. Jesus put it bluntly: ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,’ he said. ‘I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
Jesus healed and ministered to those deemed “undeserving” by the culture of His day: the unclean, leprosy victims, cultural outsiders and enemies like the Roman soldier, and even the bodies of the dead in order to bring them back to life.
See to it that no one misses the grace of God. — Hebrews 12:15
“Grace is tough, and difficult. It means showing love and compassion to people who may take advantage of it. It means forgiving those who have wounded us, and sacrificing our own interests for the sake of others.”
Choose the questions that work best for your group.
- Both Dr. Cooke and Dr. Koop faced the temptation to let judgment determine the way they served those in need. Instead, they followed the example of Jesus and let the healing power of grace determine how they treated others. Imagine putting yourself in the doctors’ shoes: What part of their response would be hardest for you?
- Jesus healed and ministered to those who were deemed the most undeserving by the culture of His day. Who are the individuals and groups considered “undeserving” of grace and second chances by our culture today? What are some examples of how you could extend grace to those individuals or groups?
- Based on Philip’s informal survey, most people don’t think of the word grace when they think about Christians. Why do you think this is so?
- Read John 3:16-17. Instead of casting divine judgment, what was Jesus’s primary goal in coming to earth? What does this verse tell you about God’s heart for the world?
- By default, we can’t seem to help thinking of God’s grace in terms of fairness, as if we could somehow earn his free gift. How does this limit our understanding of God’s true nature?
- “Grace, like water, flows to the lowest part.” What might the world look like for Christians to put this principle into action?
Spend a few minutes reflecting on today’s discussion, then pray the following prayer together — out loud as a group — or allow a volunteer to pray on behalf of the group. Add in your own words as you like.
Lord, we confess that we have practiced ways of ungrace — in our judgmental thoughts, in our reluctance to be generous and kind to others, and in the ways we have tried to earn your grace for ourselves. Please open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands that we may recognize, receive, and, in turn, pass along the gift of Your grace.
For more thoughts and stories about grace from Philip Yancey, read: What’s So Amazing About Grace?, chapters 1–5.
Each reading will include stories about Philip’s personal journey toward God’s grace and will often highlight stories from well-known authors, movies, or historical events that illustrate the power of grace.
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Let us know your thoughts on What’s So Amazing About Grace? in the comments. We want to hear from you!