GATEKEEPERS OF GRACE (PART 2)
Written by Doug Ponder on January 3, 2016
Gatekeepers of Grace (Continued)
Gatekeepers are people assigned to guard or monitor an entrance. Very wealthy homes have gatekeepers. Military bases have gatekeepers. Zuul had a gatekeeper. And theologically inaccurate cartoons often depict Peter as heaven’s gatekeeper. In every case, a gatekeeper’s job is simple: make sure that only the right people come in.
But the whole point of God’s grace is that it’s a gift, not a reward. Grace is something given, but a reward is something earned. Grace depends on the love of the giver, but rewards depend upon the worthiness of the receiver. A paycheck is a reward for your labor; a Christmas present is a gift. Grace is a gift.
In fact, the only way to miss out on this gift is to go around thinking that you deserve it (Luke 18:9-14). Grace needs no gatekeeper, therefore, because the gates of grace are open to everyone. All you need is need. “Ask, and it will given to you,” Jesus says (Matt. 7:7).
And that’s why acting like a gatekeeper of grace is so wrong and so ugly. It’s a sign that we don’t yet understand the grace we have been shown in Jesus. For why else would we withhold from others the grace God has freely given to us? If we didn’t have to earn grace, why do we act like someone else has to?
More Signs You Might Be a Gatekeeper of Grace
The following signs are strong indications that you’re withholding from others the grace God has freely given to you
1. You are eager to find blame and expose it.
When an incident occurs, your first thing is not, “How can I make this right?” but, “How can I show that this wasn’t my fault?” It’s like you have a little “blame detector” that runs 24/7 inside your mind. In disagreements with others one of your top priorities is clearing your own name.
And it’s not enough for you to receive someone’s apology; you make sure that others know just how wrong they were. You want grace, but you don’t show it to others.
2. You are only “generous” with those who can repay you.
Do you tend to host baby showers or throw parties for only the kinds of people who can return the favor? Do you keep a tally of how many times certain people have had you over to their place versus how many times you’ve had them over? Are you offended when someone turns down your invite? Does that factor in to whether or not you invite them next time? Do you serve people whose needs are much greater than your own? Perhaps you are generous with people, but only those who can give you what you want, power, money prestige, a better friend circle, or a better homeschooling group (Luke 14:12-14). This type of “generosity” really isn’t grace—it’s a transaction, a trade. You give this, and you expect that in return.
3. You are impatient (and easily angered).
Patience is a virtue, as they say, which means impatience is a terrible vice. It’s not just a personality quirk. You’re not the only person who hates traffic, but you think traffic justifies your outrageous temper. Impatience with others stems from a lack of grace. When it comes to your own life, you want second chances, extra time, and understanding from others. But when it comes to the lives of other people, you want what you want and you want it now. You feel that you deserve something that is being withheld from you, and you are furious that you aren’t getting what you want. You love getting grace from others, but your impatience shows that you don’t really see it as “grace” at all. In your mind at least, you should get what you deserve. Without waiting.
4. You are prone to gossip.
“Let your conversation always be gracious,” the Scriptures say (Col. 4:6). Gossip is the opposite of this. Instead of friendly words about others, you speak poorly of them behind their backs. Instead of showing mercy to a fellow sinner, you speak as if you are righteous enough to cast the first stone. Instead of compassion, your words are full of disdain. Instead of charitably giving the benefit of the doubt, you assume the very worst. And all because you are not showing others the same grace that God shows you.
How God Makes Us Grace Givers
Merely knowing that we are prone to being gatekeepers of grace won’t stop us from acting that way. (As the old G. I. Joe cartoons would conclude, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.”)
Don’t get me wrong. It’s good to acknowledge this tendency in our hearts, but we can’t stop there. As the apostle James says: “Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (Jas. 1:23-24).
In other words, it’s no good to sit around saying, “Yep. That’s me. Mr. Ungracious, lol.” If that really is you, and you know it, then you must confess it for what it is. Ungraciousness is not a personality quirk; it’s sin. It’s the response of someone who thinks they deserve God’s grace but others don’t—which, of course, is the very opposite of what grace means in the first place.
So this is the way God will turn you into a grace giver instead of a gatekeeper: He calls you to look deeply at your own sins, to see them for what they are, and to see that he loves you and showers you with blessings anyway, in spite of yourself. That’s grace! And to the degree that you grasp this grace you have been shown, you will your thoughts of “earning” and “deserving” anything will diminish. As they shrink, so too will your tendency to be a gatekeeper of grace. For when your unworthiness to receive anything runs into God’s gracious desire to give you everything, that can’t help but change you.
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.