I have started a new project with one of my best friends that has forced me to do a lot of research on churches in our community. We both have grown up in church, in Christian school, around church people, and as ministers’ kids. We have experienced, and have seen others experiencing, a growing epidemic throughout the church today… the perpetuation of duty over desire. It is a growing message in the church that after receiving Jesus as your Savior there is a list of “Christian duties” that come next. These include but are not limited to: baptism, communion, joining a church, giving tithe, quiet times, evangelism, prayer, going to church twice a week, learning to defend your faith, knowing how to win people over to the church, and my personal favorite being a good example to everyone else (which I think is just the nice way of saying “pretending to look good all the time”). It amuses me that the church has become so focused on doing and teaching all these things when Jesus never seemed to worry so much about those things. Every time you see Jesus talking about those things in scripture it was usually in response the religious leaders of the day who were trying to test him. Jesus didn’t go around preaching, “Ok people, if you want to be a part of my kingdom this is the list of things you have to start doing to work your way there.” No… Jesus sounded more like, “If you want to be my people learn strength under control and humility, oh and go help the hurting like the orphans and widows.” Jesus is all about love and grace not duty and law. Grace, that’s a really misused and misunderstood word in the church today. I think church people get grace and mercy mixed up. You hear even the most duty driven churches spouting off the word grace and even using it to name their churches. They usually use it in the context of “Well, it’s by the grace of God that we’re alive right now because he has power over our lives” or “It’s by the grace of God we are saved through faith in His Son Jesus, Christ.” When they say that what they mean is mercy, not grace. See, mercy is not getting what we deserve. It’s God’s mercy that keeps us all from burning in hell like we should. It’s his mercy that keeps us from dropping dead like most of us should with the unhealthy lives we live. Grace is something different entirely. God… he’s always been one to go all out. As ridiculously amazing as his mercy is, he couldn’t just stop there. No, he went one step further and gave us his grace. Grace, the getting what we don’t deserve, is what makes being a Christ follower all the more worth it! Grace is the pouring out of all God’s love and favor onto us, in its fullness, at all times. Do you know what that means?! That means we are free the fail and still, in the midst of our failure, the outpouring of God’s love and favor doesn’t stop. That means he is fully pleased with us at ALL times! Did you hear that?! ALL! That to me is what makes me want to chase after God, it makes me want to live right, do right, think right, and lead others to Christ. I’m proud to introduce people to such an amazing God that gives hope, not rules. Oh, and by the way, you out there that choose to live by duty, content with limiting God to mercy and refusing his grace, you better make sure you live perfect lives because if you choose to live by works that’s what he will judge you by.