Scandalous Grace

To describe grace, we use words like abundant, free, amazing, marvelous, sufficient, and extraordinary. And on occasion, we might even describe His grace as scandalous. Grace has a way of showing up where we don’t see it coming, in ways we don’t expect, in lives we don’t expect.

In John 4:1-42, we find Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well. No good Hebrew would dare go to Samaria, let alone interact with a Samaritan. This woman was drawing water in the middle of the day, because even other Samaritans did not want to associate with her. And yet it is here that we find Jesus offering living water, extending grace.

On the night that Jesus was arrested, it was Peter who denied Him. I would imagine a lot of people thought that was the end of the line for Peter. But then there is that occasion on the seashore (John 21:15-17) where Jesus extends grace to Peter. Who would have expected that the one who denied Him would receive such grace! And just days after this, we see God’s unmerited favor on display in Peter’s life again. On the day of Pentecost, at the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2), it was Peter who stood to preach. We would have expected God to use one of the other more steadfast apostles in this moment. But God in His grace chose to use Peter.

The scandal is not in God’s grace. Rather, the scandal is in the way we sometimes respond to God’s grace when it is demonstrated in a life, a place, or a way we don’t expect. It’s that moment when we see God’s favor in someone’s life, and we are envious because they haven’t worked as hard as we have or been as faithful as we have. This envy is on display in the parable of the laborers and the vineyard (Matthew 20:11-15). The laborers who came at the first of the day are envious of those who came at the final hour, because the master of the vineyard has paid all of them the same wage. While this might not seem fair, it was the master’s good pleasure to do so. The master of the vineyard asks this important question: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:15)

God’s grace is His to lavish upon whom He chooses, in His good pleasure, for His purpose, to His glory alone. The way we respond to God’s grace in the lives of others says a lot about the condition of our own heart. Wherever you see God’s grace on display, praise Him.

By Jesse Smith

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