by Austin Maxheimer
What does a missional Christian community look like in your neighborhood, workplace, home, or other part of everyday life?
One of the core messages of Christianity is grace. One of the core identifications of Christians is that we are sent out by God to be partners in His mission. We are going to combine the two here to challenge our church to live out Missional Grace in Christian community.
Grace Is the Mission
Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. When he climbed up the sycamore tree, he had no idea his Jesus Experience would forever stand as an example of God’s grace for His people and kids 2,000 years later would sing a catchy little song about him.
Really take in Jesus’ words that conclude this story in Luke: “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” This is God’s ultimate act of grace on display. There is not one of us who can approach God on our own. But because Jesus seeks us out and saves us, we can rest in the assurance that, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
The experience of Jesus is what defines grace. Grace is God’s mission for His creation and is therefore the mission of the church.
Jesus’ relationship with the Father (a perfect and holy sacrifice) and Jesus’ relationship with us (substituting his perfect life with our own)—those two relationships are what grace is all about.
It is when people truly experience this relationship that life transformation happens, and we rejoice in “mission accomplished.”
Grace Is by Definition Missional
Notice what Jesus was doing in the story with Zacchaeus. He was walking through a city (Jericho), met Zacchaeus where he was at (the sycamore tree), and then went to Zacchaeus’ turf (his house).
Jesus did teach in synagogues; the Bible records several instances. However, nearly every story of God’s grace transforming the life of individuals through the life of Jesus occurs in the course of everyday life. At work, in public conversations, in homes…in other words, where people are at in the flow of normal, “real” life.
This is because grace is by definition missional. Grace cannot be understood through religion; it has to be understood through relationship.
Real relationships only happen when people live life together. That is why small groups are so important. It’s also why building relationships at work, creating social circles, and staying in touch with family, among others, is so important.
In order to…
Save the Lost.
I love the moxie of Jesus in his dealing with Zacchaeus. He didn’t simply invite him to the synagogue or temple next week; he said, “I’m coming to your house!” We are often afraid or hesitant to invite people onto our own turf. Can we even imagine breaking through into the lives of people far from God where they are naturally living life?
We’d better! Because grace is the mission and grace is by definition missional. God uses the good news of Jesus flowing out of our lives into the lives of the people around us so that Jesus can say, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
Grace Serves the Mission
When people experience grace, it creates within them an urgency to find someone else to give it to. Grace seeks.
The Jesus Experience of the woman at the well created that urgency. She went back to town, leaving her water jar behind, to tell the people in her community, “Come and see!”
A friend of mine, whose Jesus Experience occurred as he was being investigated for criminal activity, urgently confessed his guilt and took ownership of his actions. He told the judge that he was looking forward to sharing Jesus with the people in prison. He is currently 11 months into an 18-month sentence.
Zacchaeus couldn’t even wait until his Jesus Experience was over! While Jesus was still in his house, Zacchaeus gave radically to God’s mission.
Helping someone far from God experience Jesus is our role in what God is doing in the world. We can’t give grace on our own. We are not capable of it. But we can embody grace through Jesus, to help others experience grace on their own.
The woman at the well simply said, “You have to see this!”
My friend is saying, “I did a horrible thing, but I have been rescued and have freedom. Let me tell you why…”
Zacchaeus said, “I am giving my goods away in such a radical way that people will have to notice my transformed life.”
Grace alive in the actions of people does not give grace—only God can do that—but it serves the mission. And notice how different it looks for each person, yet it always ends with giving witness to life transformation and revealing Jesus.
Grace Is Immediate
One of the more remarkable parts of Zacchaeus’ story is that his life transformation is immediate. It is reflected in his actions and in Jesus’ words. Zacchaeus himself became missional with his finances, and Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
If you want to learn a real churchy word, here’s the word of the day: sanctification. It refers to the process that a believer goes through once they turn their life over to God. Sanctification is a lifelong affair, which especially in the early phases can seem messy from the outside. However, it is not to be confused with grace.
Grace is the immediate gift of freedom and liberation we have the joy of living under because Jesus traded his perfect life for ours. We don’t have to wait to be perfected; we are perfect before God because of Jesus Christ.
Our lives should start reflecting this relationship with God right now. This moment.
This brings our missional grace talk full circle. Truly experiencing Jesus makes grace our mission, gets our lives on His mission, creates an unrelenting desire to serve, and calls us to immediate action.
Jesus and Zacchaeus’ relationship drew a crowd. In their day a Jewish rabbi interacting with a social outcast wasn’t just a faux pas, it was an attack on the religious standards of the time. Some things are timeless.
While Jesus had the crowd’s attention, he used it as a teaching moment. He told them the parable of the 10 minas:
A ruler was going to further his reign in another kingdom. While he was away he entrusted his servants with some money. When the ruler got back he checked in with them. The first reported that he made 10 times the original amount; the second, 5 times. But the third hid the money away and did nothing with it. The ruler commended the first two and rewarded them in return. Then he took away what he gave the third and gave it to the first.
Parables generally illustrate multiple points. Jesus related this story just before his triumphal entry and was clearly speaking about the Kingdom of God. But coming on the heels of his interaction with Zacchaeus, it was also illustrating how grace works in the life of an individual. Here are three quick truths:
- When grace is put to work, it multiplies. When God’s free gift is unleashed in the life of someone who loves Jesus, it is unstoppable.
- If grace is hidden away, it has not been truly received. This might sound judgmental, but it is truth. God’s gift is free. We cannot earn it. If it is not multiplying outside of us, then how do others know we have it?
- Grace is the gift. Relationship is the reward. What did the ruler give the two servants who multiplied the minas? A place of authority in his new kingdom. God established a new kingdom through the life and actions of Jesus Christ. What do those who believe in him and receive His grace get? A seat in the presence of God. And there is no greater authority in heaven or on earth than that.