Grace comes to us in two dimensions, vertical and horizontal. Vertical grace centers on our relationship with God. It is amazing. It frees us from the demands and condemnation of the Mosaic Law. It announces hope to the sinner—the gift of eternal life, along with all its benefits.
Horizontal grace centers on our human relationships. It is charming. It frees us from the tyranny of pleasing people and adjusting our lives to the demands and expectations of human opinion. It gives relief—the enjoyment of freedom along with all its benefits. It silences needless guilt and removes self-imposed shame.
Few people realize better than non-Christians how guilt-ridden many Christians are. A lady in our congregation tells of a conversation she had with a fellow student while the two of them were students at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. He knew she was a Christian, and he made it painfully clear that he had no interest whatsoever in her faith. When she asked why, his answer bore the sting of reality: “Because the most guilt-ridden people I know are Christians. No thanks.”
This is a good time for me to ask you two probing questions. Only you can answer them:
Do you add to others’ guilt or do you lessen it?
Are you the type who promotes another’s liberty or restrains it?
Both questions have to do with attitude, don’t they? We do what we do with others because of the way we think. Our attitude, therefore, is crucial. It is also at our mercy. We have full control of which attitude we shall have: charming and gracious or restrictive and rigid. Liberty or legalism will be the result. Depending on our attitude, we are grace givers or grace killers.