We have been redeemed through the blood of Christ; our sins have been forgiven through the abundant grace God lavishes upon us. — Ephesians 1:7-8a
Every now and then we get a real frog strangler of a rain, one of those rains where the sky opens up and the streets overflow the curbs. Water pours off the hills and floods the stream bed below my house, where it rushes over boulders and sometimes spills its banks, carrying sediment and dead brush down the valley.
Our English word lavish comes from the old French word lavache, which means a torrential rain storm — a gully-washer. The Greek word Paul uses in Ephesians 1:8 to describe the dimensions of God’s grace means a quantity far in excess of what’s needed to do the job.
Paul wants us to understand that God has done no small or common thing; God has unleashed a super-abundant and overflowing love, a generous and ongoing act of forgiveness that spills over the walls of our hearts and threatens to wash us away with its cleansing power.
I have sometimes said of a torrential rain, “What a waste!” Water is precious here in the desert, so we tend to be parsimonious with it. We use low-flow shower heads and toilets, drip irrigation, waste water reclamation and rain water collection systems to get the most from every drop of water. If I were a rainmaker, I would probably drop just enough rain to soak the earth, but no more.
By comparison, God seems to prefer grand and excessive gestures, going much farther and doing much more than is necessary. That same Greek word which describes God’s lavish grace is used in the Gospels to describe the twelve baskets-full of leftovers after Jesus fed the 5,000. He miraculously multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish — that in itself was a mind-blowing act of providence. But the miracle went far beyond what anyone could have imagined, as if God was determined that no one should be able to say, “I’m still hungry!”
This lavishness points to something remarkable about God’s nature: he loves us lavishly, excessively, not merely over and above what we deserve, but far beyond anything we could ever hope for.
It seems to be in my nature to be stingy. I jealously guard what I have. I reluctantly share my time, my money, my resources, myself, as if I’m afraid I’ll run short. I willingly accept God’s torrential downpour of love and forgiveness while too often withholding my own from others.
Why is God so generous to me, when I have done nothing to deserve it? Why do I so often fail to respond in kindness, compassion and forgiveness toward the people I meet every day?
God acts according to his nature, and so do I. I would like to think of myself as a good person, but I am frequently petty and unkind towards those who could benefit from a little kindness in a cruel world.
Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. — Matthew 5:44-45, NLT
If we are true children of God, we will love others lavishly, just as God has loved us. Easier said than done, of course. If I am becoming more generous, it is a work that God is accomplishing in me as I put my faith in Christ and lay aside my self-centered desires.
Imagine if we could learn to live and love and forgive lavishly. Imagine if we were thought of by friends, colleagues and loved ones as a torrential downpour of goodness, like a warm summer rain that saturates the earth and overflows the streams.
Photo credit: iStockphotos, Mac99