Grace Is a Gift Exchange

There are two related temptations when we think about our Christianity.

The first temptation is to focus overmuch on the vertical aspects of the faith at the expense of the horizontal. That is, we focus almost exclusively upon the "spiritual" aspects of faith, seeking a heavenly connection, to the point where we neglect the human dimension, our personal and interpersonal relationships. We're always moving toward God and not toward each other.

The second temptation is to focus on "me" rather than "we," to think individualistically rather than communally. God's commands are always about me doing something on my own rather than us doing something together.

That brings me to the text I wrote about yesterday, 1 Peter 4.10.

When we think about something like grace the two temptations I mention above often kick in. Grace is a vertical experience--something happening between God and myself--and something I experience privately, in my heart, a warm, fuzzy feeling of God's love.

But the vision of 1 Peter 4.10 challenges those notions:
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.
Here, grace involves the distribution of gifts to each other. Grace isn't a vertical, private experience. Rather, grace is a horizontal, communal experience.

Grace is "varied," it comes in different shapes and sizes, and each of us has been given a bit of it. And all these bits and pieces of grace have to be shared and distributed. Grace is a gift exchange.

Phrased differently, grace must be stewarded. Grace isn't a fuzzy feeling. Grace is an activity. Grace has been put into our hands, and it's up to us to get grace out of our hands and moving toward others.

Again, grace isn't a feeling I get in my quiet time alone with God. Rather, grace comes to us in the words and actions of other human beings.

Our job isn't to feel grace, but to distribute it.

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