Grace has no expiration date.

This article was originally written for Christ Hold Fast.

I like you probably, have an uncontrollable aversion to any food product that is past its expiration date. Even if it’s only by a few hours. I don’t care what food or drink you give me, if it’s anywhere close to being over that “best by” date, to me it’s an offering straight from the devil’s kitchen that’ll surely torment my bowels. I know that this is a ludicrous reality to live in, though. Especially when you consider that there’s no real federal regulation for what’s behind that “expiration” date or “best by” date or “sell by” date, as the folks at Vox point out in this piece:

The idea that food labels can mean different things and don’t really give the consumer any indication of the safety of the food is mind-boggling to me. As is mentioned in the video, the only regulated item is baby formula. For everything else, it’s up to each individual state to decide what manufacturers are going to have to put on their packages. This is just really, really dumb, in my opinion. Why this isn’t already a federally regulated thing I’ll never know. I can’t think of a good reason why there wouldn’t be one universally recognized label that clearly indicates the safety of the food or beverage in question. Instead, we’re left to wade through the confusing waters of “use by,” “freshest before,” “sell by,” and “packaged on” dates. Again, this is dumb.

But believe it or not, though, watching that Vox piece and coming to grips with the unregulated world of food labels reminded me of something Chris Lautsbaugh wrote a few years ago. That is:

Grace has no shelf life.

When it comes to God’s unmerited favor, there’s no such thing as an expiration date. There’s no “best by” advisory label. There’s no fine print. No regulations or provisions or qualifications attached to it. And that’s because grace can’t expire. It will never fade. It will never sour or lose its sweetness. Grace is perpetually raw and fresh, meeting us in new, surprising ways every day. If you don’t believe me, just read Psalm 136.

I think Psalm 136 is one of the most unconventional psalms ever recorded. I say that because it’s not the most original of the psalms. It doesn’t talk about a graciously glorious Shepherd or help coming from the hills or trees planted by running streams or deer drinking from rivers or other more poetic stuff like that. It really only has one message, and it’s a message that is repeated in every single verse. For all 26 verses of the psalm, we’re reminded that God’s “faithful love endures forever.”

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever.
He alone does great wonders.
His faithful love endures forever.
He made the heavens skillfully.
His faithful love endures forever. (Ps 136:1–5)

If you don’t get what he’s trying to say, God’s grace is eternal! It’s forever. It’s unyielding. It has no shelf life. It doesn’t expire. And if you don’t get it the first time or the second time or the fifteenth time, the psalmist beats us in the head 26 times with the glorious news that God’s faithful love, his outrageous grace, endures forever. God’s grace is an unrelenting flood of unconditional forgiveness. Each and every day, we are flooded by a tidal wave of unregulated one-way love. Deeper and deeper, we are immersed in a grace that forever swells around us. This merciful deluge flows straight from God’s heart. It’s who he is, One who is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.” (Ps 103:8)

As long as I’m alive, God’s faithful love is my lifeline. As long as I have breath, I can bank on it. Lean on it. Trust in it and push further and further into it. (Eph 3:17–19) Because grace won’t expire. It has no shelf life.