Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lavishing Grace

Trying to stay off Facebook and the numerous political discussions this morning... yesterday I finished a devotion for a friend's website, which will be published there next week: The devotion addressed one of my all-time favorite Bible passages, Ephesians 3:20-21.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

On one of my sites, I wrote other things about Ephesians: for instance, the palpable language used through the epistle: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us (Eph. 1:7-8)… the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints … the immeasurable greatness of his power … the working of his great power (Eph. 1:18-19) … the boundless riches of Christ (3:8)… the wisdom of God in its rich variety… (3:10).

I noted in my old Bible, beside verse 3:10, that the original Greek word for “manifold” (poluroikilos) means “many-colored.” I also love that word “lavish”: imagine God pouring his grace, ladling his grace to us in huge, generous servings, and we come back for more and more!

Alternately, imagine God splashing us, splattering us with great colorful heaps of wisdom and blessing. Psalm 23 provides a similar image of abundance: the overflowing cup. What a relief that was to discover: God’s grace is so much more than a warm feeling, so much more than rules to keep.  Grace is more than even the help that we seek when we’re desperate: God’s grace is abundance, riches, and excess.

Jesus promised us abundant life: excessive life, outpouring life. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). The Greek word perisseia means “abundance” and “overflow.” The word alludes to the feeding of the multitudes, a story which, interestingly, is the only miracle (besides the resurrection) that is told in all four gospels (Matt. 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-13). Other important stories—the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the raising of Lazarus, the angelic appearance to the shepherds, and others—are not similarly repeated in all four. But the prevalence of this miracle alerts us to its importance; the life Jesus bestows is never stingy and grudging, and is certainly never earned.

There are many other signs of God’s abundance: the way Jesus socializes with people we’d avoid, the way God’s Holy Spirit was given freely to all, the way people found power and liberation in Christian fellowship, the way social barriers and distinctions dropped within the early church’s fellowship (e.g. Gal. 3:28). That poses a question: how can we ourselves, today, display God’s many-colored, heaping, overflowing lavishness?

Sometimes when I'm blue about the world, these kinds of biblical passages help remind me that God is not only still working and speaking in the world, but is doing so in excess!

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