I don't know about you, but when I think about groups who struggle with grace, I think about those who have a hard time believing God can truly forgive them for certain things in their past, or I think about those who refuse to acknowledge they need God's forgiveness at all.  But there's a third group of people who can struggle mightily with God's grace.  I'm a member of that group.  Maybe you are, too?

I'm talking about those who have grown up in the church, placed their trust in Christ at an early age, and really haven't done anything that most people would consider all that terrible.  People in this group can actually have a very hard time accepting God's grace.  Because they don't have any "big sins" in their past, it can be hard for them to think in terms of being desperately in need of God's grace.  That's not to say that such people would ever deny needing God's grace, but grace just doesn't sink in all the way until it becomes part of how they fundamentally see themselves. Instead, such people can often fall into the traps of legalism when they're living well or self-condemnation when they're living poorly.

Now obviously refusing to allow God's grace to fully integrate into how you see yourself and how you live has definite consequences for your relationship with God! But it also has very significant consequences for your interactions with other people.

First, if we do not live by grace, we will have a hard time showing grace to others.  Sometimes this will come across as judgment and legalism in our relationships with those around us.  When we fail to remember that any good thing or evidence of spiritual maturity in us is only by the grace of God working in us, we can become very impatient or angry when we see all that "ungoodness" in other people.  Rather than exhorting or encouraging others to be more like Christ, we condemn them and even dismiss them as being hopeless.

Second, even when we try to show grace to others-if we ourselves don't acknowledge our utter dependence on grace-our efforts at grace-showing are likely to come across as condescending or patronizing.  When we forget just how much we need God's grace, our attempts at showing grace to others may be received more as unwanted pity than gracious compassion.  We act like spiritual doctors dispensing spiritual medicine to spiritually sick patients, rather than as fellow patients, just as certain to die without the life-saving medicine only the Good Doctor can provide.

Finally, we can have a hard time receiving grace from others.  We rob others of the blessing of showing grace to us, and stop God from ministering to us through other people.  Too many times I've seen the heartache of Christians too proud to receive financial help, forgiveness and restoration, or even just an encouraging word.  When we refuse to lean fully on grace, leaning on other people smacks of weakness, and often we won't do it.

Grace allows us to see how holy God is, to see how wicked we are, and to rest in the knowledge that the gap between Him and us has been bridged.  It also helps us to remember that such a bridge is even necessary, and that we are not toll booth mangers along the bridge, but merely fellow pilgrims. It's not only the unrepentant that are too proud to fully accept grace. It's not only those burdened with overwhelming guilt that struggle to completely allow grace to radically redefine them and the way they live. It's people like me.  And maybe like you?