“What are you going to do now that you don’t have to do anything?” – Gerhard Forde
I just came across this quotation last week. What a wonderful summation of what it means to live as people of grace!
If you’ve heard me preach or teach, you’ve probably heard me talk about my biggest misconception of Christians during my time as an atheist/agnostic. I thought that Christians were people who were trying to follow the Ten Commandments and do other stuff they believed God wanted them to do so that God would love them and forgive them and give them eternal life.
What I understand now is that Christians are people who are trying to follow the Ten Commandments and do other stuff they believe God wants them to do because God loves them and has already forgiven them and promised them eternal life.
The sad thing is that not only do people outside the church fall into my previous misconception, so also do many Christians believe that they have to toe God’s line in order to get or keep their salvation.
But Forde’s quote compactly reminds us that it is God’s grace that saves and sustains us. Our sins were forgiven on the cross . . . totally and completely. We are saved by grace alone, not by grace plus (anything else).
There is nothing that we have to do because it has all been done for us!
But there is much that we get to do. We get to respond to the amazing things God has done for us, not in order to repay or earn those things (we can’t!), but in order to fully live out our relationship with God and with others.
Being humans, it’s hard to accept that we don’t have something to do with our salvation. Pride is part of what it means to be human – we want at least some of the credit. But being saved by God’s grace means that God gets all the credit. And we are free to be the people God created us to be!
The good news about grace is that we never have to worry if we’re good enough – or have done enough – to be saved.
Does that mean it doesn’t matter what we do? Certainly not! It certainly matters to God – and to our neighbors – whether we love God and love our neighbors as Jesus directed, and whether we live out that love. But when we are fully aware of God’s gracious salvation, we won’t be able to help but to live as faithfully as we can.
What are we going to do we now that we don’t have to do anything? We get to do those things for which Paul says we were created . . . and recreated: “Good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
(NOTE: If you’d like to read something by Gerhard Forde, I recommend a book that had a profound effect on my theological development: On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation.)