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The Real Work of Grace

ringsWhat is a healthy marriage?

Is it one where husband and wife constantly try to work desperately at not having an affair? Or where you fixate on divorce so you don’t become another “statistic”?

These seem far-fetched, of course, but it can seem good and proper to focus on all the negative things that can happen and work to make sure they don’t happen. At the heart of a healthy marriage is a healthy relationship.

Honestly, I don’t fear having an affair or getting a divorce. The work that my wife and I do is making time for each other in the midst of crazy schedules, lots of kids, and many demands. When we are bickering a lot or not on the same page, we both realize we need to take a step back and put more into our own relationship.

Those difficulties and behaviors are a symptom of losing focus on relationship.

Here you are scouring through the Scriptures, hoping that you will find eternal life among a pile of scrolls. What you don’t seem to understand is that the Scriptures point to Me. Here I am with you, and still you reject the truth contained in the law and prophets by refusing to come to Me so that you can have life. –John 5:39-40 (VOICE)

Eternal life is not just about where you spend eternity. It’s what you’re called to live and enjoy every single day. When you divorce the scriptures from the One who fulfills them, your work is in vain. As I heard one minister say, you end up with principles without the Prince (of Peace).

Working on, managing, or fighting sin even by learning new systems or applying scripture while your relationship with Jesus is suffering will ultimately fail. Just as in marriage, a healthy relationship is the safeguard that trumps everything else.

When you’re in love, you want to be with the other person. You want to do things for them. You want them to know they are loved and appreciated in big and small ways.

When I know who I am, connected to the Vine, and centered on Him–I don’t need systems in place. I simply want Him more than anything else. I don’t have to worry about helping or loving others because I want to make Him happy.

The real work of grace is in maintaining and building relationship, not fighting sin.

Sure there are temptations and failures and problems to overcome, but the relationship is central. It’s a matter of working from grace instead of trying to get into grace. When I see the problems (and more accurately, the fixing of problems) or sin as the focus, I’ve lost sight of what is truly important.

In reality, I’ll have lost the battle and on the way to losing the war.

I’m not talking about pretending all is well. There can be places that need healing and restoration. Relationships are hard sometimes, but when you rediscover why you love someone, it’s work but it’s good work. It’s about the intentionality and putting the other first.

Scouring the scriptures or the latest self-help book may seem noble and forward-thinking, but you may just be missing the point. It all points to Jesus.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you see grace involving working on sin or not?


  1. A while back, I realized that much of what we’re called to do as Christians being perfected is twofold. First, get rid of the bad. Second, add in the good. Both are needed. Remember the parable in Matthew 12 about the empty house? It wasn’t enough to just empty the house of evil, that house then had to be filled with Christ. So much of what the NT teaches involves these two steps. I have found this an effective approach with relationships too. Get rid of (and keep it gone) of the bad, and do the things that are good and strengthen the relationship. This concept has helped me a lot. I think it’s what you’re getting at too.
    Kari Scare recently posted..The Way Things AppearMy Profile

    • Very true. It’s not ignoring what’s bad, but dealing with it in the context of building and maintaining relationship. You can attempt to deal with all the junk and miss out on relationship, but He calls us to something higher--something better. Great way of saying it, Kari. Thank you.

  2. These are thoughts worth pondering, Jason. I once heard a sermon in which the pastor asked, “Are we sinners who are saved, or saints who sometimes sin?” His point being, after our salvation, what do we focus on? This is what I thought about as I was reading your post. So, to answer your question, I don’t think grace is working on sin. To me, the whole concept of grace is freedom, rest, and intimate relationship. It is, indeed, focusing on Jesus. My relationship to Him far outweighs everything else And loving Him above all else is what makes everything else fall into place.

    Sharon recently posted..THE GOLDEN RULE -- LOVING MYSELF??My Profile

    • I agree with that pastor. My favorite example I’ve thought to explain this concept is the Queen of England. If she chooses to do something a commoner does, such as go to the store for some milk, does she cease to be the queen because she is not doing something a queen would do? In the same way, we may choose to sin and that’s not something we should do, but it no longer defines who we are as it did before we were saved. The focus is Jesus and what a beautiful, wonderful focus He is! Thanks so much, Sharon.

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