The Posture of Grace

"power to the peaceful" sign at a protest march
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

What does it mean to “think theologically” about current issues like politics, social justice, and worldviews? It begins with key questions: Who is the God revealed in Jesus? What is God’s nature? And what is God up to? These fundamental questions help us to think theologically and help form a foundation for informed conversations concerning societal issues.

Leaving God out of our thinking (or adding him when it suits our purposes), is the core issue facing a large part of our world (especially the English-speaking countries). Also problematic is an overarching under-developed view of God. Is it simple, perhaps naïve, for a Christian to believe that Jesus is the answer, no matter the complexity of the issue? When we plumb the depths of who Jesus is, then we know he is the answer; he is the deep, profound answer to complicated human issues. This doesn’t give Christians permission to stay uninformed about the world in which we live—rather, it challenges us to be aware of the times in which we live, while simultaneously being aware of the Lord’s presence.

What I often see in the news—especially among passionate Millennials—is that many conversations dealing with societal issues begin with the problem (be it abuse, injustice, or anything that “needs to be fixed”). The passion builds around the wrongness of the offense and is followed by a demand for action to fix the perceived problem. If God enters the conversation at all, the question is often: “How can a loving God allow such evil?” So where and how do we as believers enter the conversation and initiate a relationship?

You may recall the apostle Paul’s charge for the church to follow him as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). The posture Paul took with the church at Corinth is applicable to the question “How do we gracefully and truthfully represent Jesus in the emotive polarized world of today?”

For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand—just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you (2 Corinthians 1:12-14 ESV).

Paul met questions and contentious issues head-on. He spoke confidently about his approach—the moral sensibilities of his conscience (a Spirit-guided sense of right and wrong), enhanced by his knowledge of God’s Word, and understanding the mind of Christ. It was from this platform that he shaped his conduct and communication in his relations with the Corinthians.

There are three important things to note about Paul’s conduct.

      1. It was with “simplicity” or the sense of singlemindedness that Paul wrote. He always pointed toward the Triune God, and the grace that flows from Father, Son and Spirit.
      2. His conduct was sincere, honest, and genuine. Being authentic carries a lot of weight.
      3. His motive was not in the vein of worldly wisdom, which is ultimately self-serving. He was instead guided by a love for others and sought what was in their best interests.

Paul’s letters matched his conduct: simple, sincere, and filled with God’s grace (I suspect that you notice in Paul’s tone that he operates out of “High Support”—love for the brothers and sisters and their best interest, and “High Challenge”—not backing down from ungodly behavior and failings within the church). Paul had no hidden meanings or ulterior motives in his correspondence with the Corinthians. With Paul, what you see is what you get, and he was the same way in his letters.

Paul knew that he had been more corrective with the believers in Corinth than with any other church, but he also believed his sincere motives and genuine love would win them over in the end. Compelled by the love of Jesus, Paul was tenacious and unrelenting in pointing them to Jesus. I believe his hope was that they would eventually come to vindicate him and even boast of him in the day of the Lord Jesus.

We can learn a lot from the consistency of Paul’s message, his motives and his conduct. Paul knew how to become all things to all people that he might win some to Jesus. We would do well to follow him as he so closely followed Christ. We would do well to allow the love of Christ to inspire us tenaciously and unrelentingly point others to Jesus. We would do well to be sincere, honest and genuine, and to let Christ’s love be our motivation.

My final thought is this: As followers of Jesus, Christians are uniquely empowered to display patience and tolerance. This is because we are well-founded in our relationship with Jesus and we know the convictions for which we stand. And just like the apostle Paul, our goal is about winning people, not arguments. We, who have been transformed by God’s grace, can operate out of the posture of grace no matter what the social climate brings.

Living in that posture in grace,
Greg Williams

10 thoughts on “The Posture of Grace”

  1. This is a helpful post Greg for believers striving to win people to Christ with grace-based conduct. Jesus, as you point out not only has the answers to complex issues, He is the answer! Paul had spent time building relationships with this church – “So Paul stayed for a year and a half teaching them (the Corinthians) the word of God” Acts 18:11. R.E.A.L.

  2. Thanks Greg. We are called to peace. We are not called to passivity. There is much that Christ can do through us, even in a unstable world, if we abide in him.

  3. Very timely! Greg, I am very encouraged by your contribution. I think it important to be reminded that as Christians we can be loving AND passionate about shedding some light where there is darkness. That was, of course, Paul‘s modus operandi (so well expressed in his letters). While one can err by focusing too much on social issues (the gospel is Jesus) we ought not dismiss the example of God‘s people who have historically always fought against evil and injustice. That leaves plenty of „lighting up“ for us to do in this often confused and confusing world.

    Our prayers are with you.

  4. Thank you Greg for a message that really struck me. It was very timely for me personally. His conduct was sincere, honest, and genuine. Being authentic carries a lot of weight. We all fall short of the mark set before us and it greatly saddens me that we as a society have reach the point of saying that it is okay. Grace is a beautiful thing and learning to share that hope is so critical. Hopefully we all can take to heart your words and do a better job of sharing what God has so bountifully given us.

  5. Thanks Greg for encouraging us to be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. God has subjected us all to vanity not willingly but also to Hope. Rm 8:20 Jesus Christ is the answer and as you said in the last sentence we, who have been transformed by God’s Grace can operate out of the posture of grace. The Grace of God has been executed for us all by Jesus Christ. We now are given to see Him as the world’s only Hope and are called now to spread this message of Hope as He leads us in what to say and do in each situation we are in.

  6. Thank you for this message! It is easy to get caught up in conversations with friends & acquaintances about issues & events and yes I have been guilty of not putting God in the conversation & picture. This message has made me think and I pray it will help me be more like Paul and know that grace & love are what our Father is all about! So thankful for this message.

  7. Certainly society, our culture , is ripe for ‘the answer”. May the Holy Spirit stir our being with passion to be living witnesses of the outflowing, courageous outpouring of HIs love right where we are. And may his mercy in love be paramount as we meet challenges around us to be quiet. Well written, brother!

  8. “Paul knew that he had been more corrective with the believers in Corinth than with any other church, but he also believed his sincere motives and genuine love would win them over in the end” . So true, they will know we are christians by our love. He examines our hearts.
    Thank you Dr. Williams for this inspiring message.

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