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Living in Grace Upon Grace

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Can we live in grace upon grace? This is my New Year resolution. As Christians, we all are the recipients of grace, but can we be the extenders of grace? I know it's not easy, but there are five things we can do to grow our ability to give grace. Let's take a look ...

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Last week PBS aired the Masterpiece version of Les Misérables in six episodes. It was a non-musical version. I watched it and found out that it is very well made. However, if you love the musical, you would find this version missing some zest, or some emotional wild emotional rollercoaster.
In any case, I am sure everyone who has seen or read Les Mis loves it. After all, it was the second longest running musical in Broadway history with 6680 performances. You would never think such a theologically dense and serious story like this can be appreciated by every generation.
The story touches the core of the human spirit because deep inside we all feel the heavy burden of the law and long for redemption. All major religions tried to come up with a set of laws to help us earn the redemption, but Jesus came to deliver grace. John said,
The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17).
Les Mis is the perfect depiction of the contrast between law and grace. Jean Valjean stole a loaf of bread, but the harsh punishment by the law made him sink deeper to sin and commit worse crime—stealing the silver from the church that gave him refuge. Inspector Javert wanted the perfect rule of law, and the church wanted to show grace.
Jean Valjean was enslaved by law but redeemed by grace. Inspector Javert never understood grace and believed redemption comes through strict law.
Lao Tzu said, “The more laws we have, the more thieves we have.” Lao Tzu saw the problem, but he never found the solution. The best solution he could come up with was to go with the flow—que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.
Lao Tzu vaguely discovered grace as part of the Tao, but he had perceived the Tao must be the Son of Someone. He said, “I do not know whose son the Tao is. It might appear to have been before God.” (Lao Tzu 4). John answered his question from the very beginning of his Gospel,
In the beginning was the Word (the Tao in Chinese), and the Word (Tao) was with God, and the Word (Tao) was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being.” (John 1:1-3).
I am sure Lao Tzu would leap with joy when he discovers the Gospel of John. He died 500 year too early. His contemporary, Confucius, also said, “Had I known the Tao in the morning, I am happy to die in the evening.” The sages had a yearning and foresight for the Word. John then said,
And the Word (or the Tao) became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:14, 16).
I want to focus on this last verse, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” It reminds me of the scene Jean Valjean was caught by the police with the silver from the church and brought to the priest because he told the police that the silver was given to him.
The priest testified that it was true and told Valjean that he forgot to take the bigger candle stands and gave them to him also. That was the turning point of Jean Valjean. He was touched by grace shown by the priest. The harsh law didn’t make him righteous, but grace did. The rest of his life became the embodiment of grace.
It’s easy to receive and appreciate grace, but it’s not easy to do grace. Imagine you are the priest. Would you be able to be so gracious? Honestly, I would feel very angry for being betrayed by him. “I give you food and shelter for the night, but you pay me back by stealing from me?”
I have to confess that I can’t be so gracious. I will try, but I think I will fail. (Maybe because I am a Libra! Just kidding. That can’t be an excuse in heaven.)
See, we all want to be treated by God, like the way Jean Valjean was treated—grace upon grace—but when we treat others, we become Inspector Javert. We want justice and we want fairness!
It’s just liked the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant told by Jesus. He bagged the king to forgive his debt, and the king showed him mercy, but when he went out, he found someone who owed him just a little and he refused to forgive him.
Can we live grace upon grace? This is my New Year resolution. As Christians, we all are the recipients of grace. Can we be the extenders of grace?
From today’s scripture lesson, I draw a list of five actions that we can do to live the life of grace upon grace. As usual, I managed to put them in an acrostic GRACE.

1. Grasp God’s Grace

I have discovered that if I want to show grace, I must receive grace. Just like Jean Valjean, he was harsh because the world was harsh on him. From the moment he experienced the irresistible grace, he became a grace giver. Verse 12 says,
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (John 1:12).
The term “received” is translated from a Greek word that means “to grasp” or “to seize.” It’s more than just welcoming God, but to hold on to him, or embrace him. The more we grasp God’s grace the more we are able to show grace.

2. Rekindle Your Flame

The world is harsh as it is a fallen world. What we encounter everyday is like being poured with cold water. Most of the things you see in the news extinguishes your grace. You need to rekindle your flame of grace by looking at Jesus, who is the light of the world. John said,
In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:4, 5, 9).
Jesus came to the world to rekindle our flame. That’s why I love to read the four Gospels over and over again. If you sit in my car, you will hear the MP3 Bible of the four Gospels repeated being played over and over again. It rekindles my flame of grace.

3. Assume the Role of God's Child

We behave according to the role we conceive in our mind. If I feel I am a failure, I behave like a failure. The world Jean Valjean was in made him feel like a thief, so he assumed the role of a thief. However, the grace of the priest made him feel like a treasure of God, and he decided to assume that role. John said,
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (John 1:12).
Notice it says “power.” That’s the power to change. No matter how much failure I feel, the Word gives me the power to become a child of God. So, assume it. As a child of God, you have no other way to behave but graciously. You become a noble person doing noble deeds.

4. Communion with Saints

It’s hard to do grace alone in this fallen world. We need each other, not as a community but as a communion. Communion is different from community. A community is like a club, a group of special interest people hanging out together, but a communion is a spiritual union.
A community is an organization. A communion is an organism. Paul said that all Christians are part of one body with Christ as the head.
By saints, I’m not talking about the Roman Catholic sense of saints. The saints according to the Bible are simply the believers, those who are born of the Holy Spirit. John said,
who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13).
When you feel discourage, reach out to the saints, the ones who shows grace. Sometimes, even watching or reading a story like Les Mis, makes you feel communion with the saints and inspire you to show grace.

5. Enlighten the World with Grace

Sometimes, all you need is just do it. I don’t like the expression, “Fake it until you make it,” but it has some truth in it. Just as we assume the role of a child of God, we become gracious, we also can be gracious first and assume the role of a child of God. Don’t just wait for the mood to take action, take the action first and the mood follows. Jesus said,
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. … In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Mat 5:14, 16).
Grace includes a sense of hope and trust. God shows grace because he believes in us and has hope in us. In the same way, we must not lose faith in the world. Stretch your light and it will stretch your faith when you see your light reflects back.
Here’s how we can grow our grace:
· Grasp God's Grace
· Rekindle Your Flame
· Assume the Role of God's Child
· Communion with Christ
· Enlighten the World with Grace
Happy New Year! Amen!
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