“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody." Romans 12:17
Do you ever pay much attention to bumper stickers? I find them fascinating! You can be driving along and in one minute see a sticker that says, “My child is an honor roll student at So-and-So Middle School,” and then turn the corner and see another car sporting the bumper sticker, “My child beat up your honor roll student”! Paul Harvey tells a great story about a car with two stickers decorating its back bumper. On the left side, were the words: “Jesus is coming!” On the right: “Escape to Wisconsin.”
Often, bumper stickers tell others where your loyalties are. Your choice of automotive adornment may declare your allegiance to a favorite sports team, a chosen political candidate, or a specific issue or cause. The sticker proclaims that you are committed enough to the cause, issue, team, or individual, that you are willing to let even perfect strangers know where you stand.
Even in the church-world, we have gotten into the bumper sticker thing. Options range from a simple fish, to a cross, to a clever slogan (such as “Warning: In Case of Rapture this Car Will Be Unmanned”). It might be a fun way to proclaim your loyalty to Christ, but I’m not sure that pithy comments on a car bumper are what’s needed to effectively communicate God’s grace to a world that is mired in sin and hopelessness.
In today’s text, after the apostle Paul instructs us to submit ourselves as living sacrifices to God (the only appropriate response to God’s mercy and grace), he spends the rest of Romans 12:9-21 talking about how that allegiance to God shows up in the life of a Christian. He gets right down to the heart of what sets us apart. In essence, he says that as Christians our lives should be marked by “reliable grace” toward others.
What do we mean by reliable grace? I’m glad you asked. Here’s a definition: “Reliable grace is the predictable action of abundant kindness, regardless. . . even to the most undeserving offender.” It means that people can count on you to pour out grace—active, predictable kindness—into their lives. It is unconditional and available even to the most undeserving of offenders. Anybody have an undeserving offender in your life? Your boss? Your spouse? Your boyfriend? Your kids? That’s your target. More than a bumper sticker, more than a fish or a cross on your car, more than a T-shirt or a WWJD bracelet, we demonstrate our loyalty to Jesus by extending His reliable grace to others.
You see, His reliable grace and abundant kindness has been poured out on undeserving offenders like you and me. So extending it to others opens up opportunities to talk about the real source of grace. God has asked us to proclaim the goodness of God’s forgiveness and mercy, but that can only be done in the context of our own extension of grace and mercy.
So today, look for moments to extend “reliable grace” to the people in your life. When you do, your loyalty and allegiance to Jesus will be more on display than if you had a bumper sticker emblazoned across your forehead.
- How did you experience God’s reliable grace when you first trusted Christ? How have you experienced it since then?
- Who are some of the “undeserving offenders” in your life? What makes extending grace toward them so difficult?
- How might Christ’s character be seen through you as you extend grace toward these individuals? Pray for His strength, and then ask Him to give you an opportunity to extend some reliable grace today.