Failure & Grace
“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand." Romans 5:1-2
When I was a freshmen in high school I experienced failure. The first semester of my freshmen year I had Algebra 1 with Colonel Firehawk. (I know, what a great name, right?) I really liked Col. Firehawk and did pretty well in his class, remember math is my nemesis. Then right before Christmas break he announced he was retiring and we would have a new teacher when we came back from break. The new teacher was nothing like him. She was strict, downright mean at times, and insisted that you do ALL of your homework. I did not like her. Now, to be clear, it was not her fault that I did not succeed. However, I failed my second semester of Algebra 1. I was embarrassed and humiliated. All of my other classmates were going on to geometry and I was not. I failed.
This was a valuable lesson for me to learn. I never failed another class after that, nor had I before that. I didn’t like the feeling and I believed that I was more capable than that. The even more valuable lesson was the one I learned in the class I had to take in order to get back on track in math. The teacher in that class had every right to be hard on every one of her students. We all had failed Algebra 1 in order to be in her class. Most of us had failed because of not applying ourselves. This teacher was not hard on us. In fact, she offered what I would later understand to be grace. We had not earned the right to be treated that way. We did not deserve her graciousness, but she gave it anyway. She encouraged us, built us up, and helped us go where we could not go on our own. This was a more important lesson.
You see John Wesley is lifted to a very high and prominent position in Methodism, and rightfully so. In light of this we sometimes forget that he failed. He experienced a measure of failure when he came to Georgia to share the Methodist movement with America. When he returned to England he felt the weight of this failure. It was the grace given to him through a group of Moravian Christians that he understood for sure that he was justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. In the words of Adam Hamilton, “This man who was trying so hard to prove himself to God (or to himself) discovered that God offered freely what Wesley had worked so hard to attain.” Grace gives us what we cannot earn and what we do not deserve. God gives this grace freely if we will humble ourselves, repent, and accept God’s offer.
I pray that we all fail, or have failed, in our attempt to prove ourselves to God (or each other). I pray that we all experience the abundance of God’s grace in our failure. I pray that we all will receive the heart-warming swell of God’s grace being released in us and through us. It may take a crisis of faith to move us to this point. If so, I pray we all experience that crisis of faith. See you in church this Sunday.