Tag Archives: grace-faith vs law-works

God’s Grace Is Amazing, But It Is Not “Easy”

God’s grace is wonderful. But if we think grace is easy, we need to think some more.

One of Jesus’ most famous stories was told in response to a religious lawyer’s question: “Teacher, who is my neighbor?”

The question was blatantly self-serving. Luke prefaces the lawyer’s question: “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked . . .”

The greatest temptation we all face is to try to “justify” ourselves rather than accepting by faith the justification that comes only through grace. We understand the question’s tone all too well.

“And who is my neighbor?” (10:29).

Let’s make a law about this so I can be very sure I’ve done what is required and no more. After all, love is costly business, and I’d hate to waste a lot of time loving someone with no claim on my love. Let’s clear this up so I can check this off the “to do” list, present the completed list to God, and expect to be paid a wage for services rendered.

We’re all expert in religious accounting. It’s easier to count than to worship. Trusting ourselves rather than trusting God is humanity’s default mode. And it’s easy to find a religious group that is more of a “religious” accounting firm focusing on our effort to keep the law rather than being the worshiping Body of Christ focusing on blood-bought salvation we in no way earn.

Ah, but that “all-about-me” question hangs in the air: “Who is my neighbor?”

Remember the story? A foolish traveler, a Jew, is waylaid by robbers, beaten senseless, and crumpled by the side of the road. In turn two religious men, a priest and a Levite, see him and walk on by, willfully blind to his need. But a Samaritan, a man whose race and religion all Jews, including this lawyer, would despise, stops, helps the man, and even pays for his lodging and care.

Then Jesus asks his own question: Who was a neighbor to the man in need? And the lawyer stammers, “The one who had mercy on him.” “Go,” Jesus says, “and do likewise,” indicating that the lawyer will never run out of neighbors and never be able to check this item off his religious “to do” list.

Salvation by law, by rule-keeping, which is no salvation at all, says, “How little can I do and be saved?” Salvation by grace through faith says, “How may I joyfully honor the God who has already saved me?”

So here are a few religiously legal questions for us, though you could add a thousand more: How often must I go to church? How much of my money do I have to give? How much can I play with sin in action or attitude? When can I say I’ve completed all the “right” rituals, worshiped enough and just “right”? When can I look down on others of God’s children who are not as “right”? How many miles away from my own front door does my responsibility to show God’s love extend?

If you think these are law questions and not grace questions, not the kinds of questions God wants us to waste time asking, I think you’re right. A legal approach to religion is not only cold, shallow, and barren, it is far too easy.

Grace? Now that’s another thing entirely!



     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“How Long Do Half Chihuahuas and Half Shih Tzus Live?”


I love my dog. I really do.

Most of our family, except for one or two who harbor the little canine no serious ill will but might not be first in line to give her “mouth to mouth” resuscitation should such be required to save her, feel mostly the same.

So it was a very level question when we were discussing doggy years and canine ages, and one of my daughters-in-law piped up from the couch, “You should Google this: How long do half Chihuahuas and half Shih Tzus live?”

Wise girl. So I did. And this is the truly wise answer that popped up: “Doesn’t matter whether it is the front half, the rear half, the left half, the right half. Half a dog cannot live.”

I way more than half laughed. When I recovered enough to read the answer aloud, way more than half of us hit the floor in laughter.

Eventually, I read on: “If you mean a ‘cross-breed,’ the answer is as unpredictable as about everything else about cross-breeds.”

The fellow whose screen name is “King Les the Lofty” went on to discuss cross-breeds in general, those two breeds specifically, and finally, with several wise caveats, he submitted his educated guess: “15-19 years.”

His quick-witted Highness also showed some real editorial skill. He tossed this in for free: “By the way, breed names are proper nouns and thus require a capital letter for each word in them (except for internal connectives such as ‘de’ or ‘of’).” I like this guy.

So here’s the good news for my dear dog and my dear daughter-in-law: The diminutive pooch will likely live a good while longer.

And here’s the bad, but not too surprising, news for all of dog-dom, and you don’t need a degree from Texas A & M–you don’t even need to be dog website royalty–to mark this down as infallibly true: “Half a dog cannot live.”

You know what? Half systems of “righteousness” can’t either.

The Apostle Paul did not refer much to “dogs,” half or whole, in his letters to the Romans and Galatians. But if we really grapple with what he wrote there . . .

If we don’t just jerk out of context a verse here or there to further calcify what we already believe and don’t plan to change no matter what Paul (or even God) says . . .

If we don’t flip over to the Book of James and twist words to try to get James and Paul crossed up . . .

Then we’ll find that only two systems of “righteousness” (“salvation”) are available. “Grace through faith” or “law through works.”

Bottom line: Trust God and his goodness (through Christ and the cross.) Or trust yourself and your own goodness. Paul loves us enough to be blunt. He won’t allow half choices, mixed choices. We must choose. Grace or law? Faith or works? God or us?

Oh, yes, if you choose to love and trust the Lord, you’ll get to work. Joyfully. Not to be Christ’s but because you are Christ’s. Forever. For sure.

But if you choose “salvation by law,” get ready to work like a slave. Never sure you’ve done enough. Always afraid you’ve missed the mark.

I guess it’s bad news: Half a dog can’t live. Count on it.

But here’s the best news: Anyone trusting in Christ, and not at all in himself, can live. And will. Count on it. Count on Him.


     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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