Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan. What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. (Galatians 2:17-18 MSG)
The most powerful testimony we can give of Christ's grace is to live in such a way that others see that grace lived out in our lives, not just the ones who see us in church, but all those we come into contact with each day of our lives. Grace doesn't mean we are perfect - it means we are learning to walk by a different 'standard' - the standard of the Word. We are learning to hold our tongue when we'd like to respond curtly - but we don't always remember to do that when the moment hits us. We are learning to look the other way when an offense is directed at us - but we don't always avoid a full-on display of our disappointment or frustration with that other individual. What should come across to those who observe us in these situations is that we don't just 'act out' and then walk away from those actions like they didn't matter. We take the opportunity of our failure as another moment we may turn to Christ for his grace to show us how to do things differently the next time we are faced with one of those moments.
Too many times we equate the present 'bad' behavior with the idea that Christ made no difference in the life of the one exhibiting that behavior, but nothing could be further from the truth. You and I don't really know what is going on 'inside' that other individual, nor how God will take that moment and turn it into a moment of conviction and teaching for that individual (and maybe even for us, too). It is unfair for us to judge that individual because of their actions - there might just be more going on under the surface than is being revealed in those actions. The best thing for us to do is to allow each other the opportunity to be real or genuine - even if that means we mess up from time to time and have to go through the process of a lot more 'do-overs' than we'd really like. God doesn't want us to live behind some mask of 'rule-keeping' - because that charade doesn't bring us or others any closer to the grace of God. Showing another how God's grace actually brings us to the place of acknowledging out short-comings and then learning to live 'differently' through his grace is what others really need to see.
There is no shame in being 'real' - but there is a little bit of shame in living behind a mask. After all, the purpose of the mask is to 'cover over' what you didn't (or weren't) wanting to reveal! The mask might just look or sound a whole lot like 'religion' for many people, but there is no reality in religion - only a whole lot of 'white-wash'. What others need more than anything is the revelation of God's grace in and through us. When we sin, admit it. When we fall, get up and brush off, then start walking again. Others will see that we aren't perfect - but that our imperfections don't need to be hidden because God's grace makes a way for us to move beyond the sin and to walk straight again. None of us is without sin - and none of us is without the need for more grace in our lives. We can try to hide behind our 'religion', but as long as we wear that mask, we aren't going to really be free from that sin. We are just going to dance around it time and time again! Grace is the only thing that will deal with it and grace is only available to those who recognize it is not their own effort that changes a man, but the power of God within that brings that change. Just sayin!