Grace or Behavior?
By Dot Bowen
"By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace." Hebrews 11:31 (NASB)
I recently attended the baptism of my sweet granddaughter Millie. Millie is eight years old and we call her our little “holy spirit”. What I mean is that Millie is quick to know the right versus the wrong thing to do. Not only does Millie know what she should do, Millie is quick to let me (Mimi) know when I am doing wrong. She is never ugly or arrogant just innocent and right. I can remember driving a little too fast and as I went through the yellow light, from her car seat Millie said to me, “Mimi, are you supposed to go so fast?” God gave me Millie to keep me accountable. (Actually, God gave me all my grandchildren to keep me in line).
On the same day Millie was being baptized, a precious lady from Wellspring Living was baptized. I do not know her name; I just know that she had been rescued from the strip clubs that surround Passion City Church. Of course, everyone wanted to know how this lady came to know Christ. The Wellspring staff and volunteers frequently visit the strip clubs to support and witness to those caught up in these activities. They offer a new life in Christ and encourage them to know and follow Jesus. There were three rows of ladies seated behind me during the baptism who were there to celebrate this woman’s new life. At Passion City Church it is custom for family and friends to stand as the person you are there to support is being baptized. As this woman’s story was told, not only did the three rows of her friends and family stand to support her, the entire church stood, clapping, crying and celebrating such an amazing God story of redemption.
Of course I stood, cried and celebrated that Millie loves Jesus and that we both now had a new sister in Christ that I may never have the opportunity to meet. As I stood celebrating the grace of God in each of these lives, God allowed me to see something I have never thought about… as I looked at the lady from the strip club to my sweet, innocent eight year old granddaughter I wondered if some might actually think it took more blood from the cross to save the woman from Wellspring than Millie. As tears ran down my face, I knew God wanted me to know that we all need a Savior. Whether you are a young child or a young woman living a hard, dark, lonely life we all need the shed blood of Jesus to be righteous. One might believe it requires more of God’s grace to save the lady in the strip club than an innocent child, however, the exact same grace is required for both and they both need the death of Jesus and His redeeming blood. Do you think it is easier for God to love a young child over a woman working the nightclubs? Do you find yourself focusing more on the behavior of a person over the power of our Savior?
Maybe the story of Rahab in Scripture is to remind us that it is always about Him and not our life of sin. Rahab was a prostitute and a Canaanite—a heathen people who indulged in idolatry. She was a liar who deceived her own leaders and helped “the enemy” escape. She was a traitor who helped orchestrate the overthrow of Jericho. By human standards, one would consider this person hopeless of ever changing, one who would need more grace than most women. But, to Jesus, we all need grace; we all need a Savior and we all need His death and His blood to remove our sin.
For some, it may be easy to look at innocent children and see the potential of God using their innocent lives for His glory yet feel hopeless when considering those who have chosen to live a life that only leads to destruction and bondage. However, we must realize that it is not behavior that changes a girl or the innocence of children that makes them holy. Jesus is our righteousness and Jesus alone creates a new heart in each of us.
When we stop looking at our behavior and start concentrating on the life of Christ, the core of our being is no longer sin–centered but God–centered. The truth is that we will continue to struggle with presence of sin but the resurrection of Jesus defeated the power of sin. I love what Tullian Tchividjian has to say about this truth in Jesus + Nothing = Everything: “Lasting behavioral change happens as you grow in your understanding of the gospel, and then as you learn to receive and rest in—at your point of deepest need—everything Jesus secured for you.”
Maybe Jesus wants us to know that He chose to come from the lineage of Rahab the prostitute to remind us that His grace is big enough for our behavior. No one is beyond the grace of God and no one is greater than Jesus!
Here’s the bottom line. Following Jesus is not about getting better, being obedient, changing behaviors and addressing our daily victory over personal sin—as important as these are. It’s about Jesus. The hope of ever changing from a life of bondage is not in what we have or have not done. The hope of ever changing from a life of bondage is in what Jesus has done for us!
Further Reading Joshua 2, Matthew 1:54, James 2:25