by Liana Berrus
Originally Published in Be Still Magazine, Issue 10
It was a morning for pulling weeds. The rain had fallen steadily for several days, and the ground was soft. As I pulled the weeds from the damp earth, I was struck by a thought. Here, juxtaposed in front of me, was the curse of the earth and the common grace of God. Each weed I pulled from the earth was there because of the curse of sin. But each lush leaf bursting forth from my hydrangea plant was there because of the grace of God.
When God created mankind, He created us for fellowship with Him. His desire was for us to walk in perfect relationship with Him. He also created us to enjoy and cultivate this beautiful earth that He had created for us. Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” From the beginning, God’s plan was for us to be curators of this creation. The work of the earth was a blessing that was given to mankind.
This perfect harmony of creation does not last long. When Adam and Eve fall prey to the temptation of the serpent in Genesis 3, the perfection of work is tainted. Now, instead of being pure enjoyment, the cultivation and curation of this planet is labor. When God visits Adam and Eve in the garden after their fatal disobedience, He pronounces a curse upon the ground. “And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field’” (Genesis 3:17-18). So the weeds that I wrest out of the earth are evidence of the pain and consequences of sin. They are a reminder to me that this creation is not as it was intended to be, that this world is broken and in bondage.
Yet the grace of God remains evident. Even while under the curse of sin this big, beautiful earth provides glimpses into the beauty and grace of our eternally good God. Next to the weeds in my flowerbed blossoms a lush and vibrant hydrangea bush. The psalmist describes this blessing poetically in Psalm 104:14-16, “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart. The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.” The common grace of God is freely bestowed on all who dwell upon the earth. Wayne Grudem defines common grace in this way, “Common grace is the grace of God by which he gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation. The word common here means something that is common to all people and is not restricted to believers or to the elect only” (Systematic Theology. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1994. 657). Common grace is something that all people everywhere experience. Jesus speaks of this common grace in Matthew 5:45 when he says, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” So much of what we see in creation is evidence of this grace of God that He bestows freely upon us all.
But His grace extends far beyond the evidence of creation. Even before He pronounces a curse on the toil of the earth, God provides a promise steeped in grace. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Even at the first fracturing of our world, God promises a special grace that is to come. This grace is seen in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He came that we might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). The promise of Genesis 3 is fulfilled when Jesus hangs on the cross and gasps, “It is finished,” and when the power of God raises Him from the dead. His finished work on the cross and victory over the grave crushed the serpent’s head and extends grace to those who look upon the pierced one and believe.
To those of us who have accepted this free gift, grace becomes ours in abundance. Jesus did not leave us on our own but sent us a special helper—the Holy Spirit. He leads us in all truth and wisdom and cultivates in us the growth of new life in Christ. We are able to taste of this grace upon grace daily as we put to death the work of sin and live for righteousness (Romans 8:12-13, Colossians 3:5-10). As I knelt in the damp earth and pulled weeds that day, I thought of my own life as I seek to abide in Christ. The weeds of sin grow so quickly, and I am in constant need of the grace of Christ to uproot sin and cultivate holiness. The curse of sin and the abundant grace of God live side by side in my daily life. Each weed became a prayer for His Spirit to convict of sin and bring forth the fruit of righteousness.
How I pray that you have tasted of and know this grace that reaches beyond our sin and leads us before the Father! How I pray that your heart is encouraged and revived in truth today as you ponder the life-giving grace of God that has covered over all of your sin. How I pray that you will treasure Christ and make your home in the abundant grace that He so freely gives.