The Scandal of God's Grace
The Scandal of God's Grace
Words of Faith 2-14-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
Just when we thought this was a wonderful angelic announcement we learn there is a catch. There is something about the nature of GRACE that we had not anticipated. The world might not view this High Favor as very graceful at all! The announcement came to Mary: You are graced by God-- highly favored-- but walking this grace out is going be a DISGRACE in the eyes of the world.
Now, how is it that the FAVOR of God may earn you such DISFAVOR among men? The thing we discover early on, long before Jesus ever taught about the difficulty of following Him as a disciple, is that sometimes obedience has a high cost. The high cost to young Mary was her reputation. Grace meant being an unwed mother in a culture where that was not only uncommon but a reason to be disowned. Being "highly favored" in this case meant risking almost certain divorce from her betrothed. Grace meant shattering the most important relationships of her life-- her future husband and her parents-- and bringing dishonor upon her family name. What is graceful about this?
For Mary, the phrase "You are favored by God" basically meant "You are going to lose everything". Yes, you are going to gain everything in the big picture, but it will require that you lose everything you thought was important. Strangely, it all sounds very much like a teaching that Jesus would one day proclaim. It sounds like a Kingdom principle that if you would seek to gain your life you will lose it, and if you lose your life for Him you will gain it (Luke 9:24-25).
God was teaching the nature of His grace and His Kingdom long before Jesus ever sat down on a hill in Galilee. Grace will involve obedience, not before, but after it is announced by God. Grace cannot be earned or deserved (Eph. 2:8-9) but it calls us to awkward, even scandalous, obedience. Mary did not earn the high favor of God by her obedience but she was called by grace to walk in obedience. This walk of grace may be scandalous. Sometimes we get the idea that walking with God means everyone will admire and congratulate us. The Bible shows that this is more often not the case.
Early on in this Gospel we hit this major lesson in faith. Can we trust the grace of God even when doing so will not make us admired by our peers? Or when, in fact, following Jesus makes us despised or ridiculed by some? Or when following Him attaches a signature of shame upon us?
Of course things are different today but the cost is the same. You don't have to look very far to discover that the culture today is upside down in comparison to first century Nazareth or even America a few decades ago!
Oddly, Mary's "scandal" would have fit right in with today's culture. The need for His grace was never greater. Today the scandal is to actually consider what God wants in our lives. The scandal is to consider the teaching of the Scripture as truth and walk in obedience. Are you ready to live scandalously, today?
Father God, keep me and my church from being assimilated by the culture of the world. Give me grace to walk in obedience to Your Word and Your way. Give me strength, as You did Mary, when following You is scandalous to those around me. In Jesus' name.