“Don’t the Bible say we must love everybody?”
“O, the Bible! To be sure, it says a great many things; but then, nobody ever thinks of doing them.”
— Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Whether you are a new follower of Jesus, or have been one for many years, there are basics of our faith that we rarely stop to contemplate. We take for granted that we understand them fully, when in reality, we would be hard pressed to define them if asked by a stranger on the street. Hope, faith, love and grace are just a few examples of these pillars of our faith. Let’s take a minute to think about the last one, Grace.
When asked once what was Christianity’s unique contribution to the world above all other religions, C.S. Lewis said, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.” If that’s true then why do Christians have such a hard time defining it or seeing it at work in our own lives? From a superficial scan of scripture; the theology of Grace is everywhere! It appears to be not only a mark but also a currency of the Kingdom of God and life in Christ. Remember when Paul asks three times for the “thorn” in his flesh to be taken away? In response, God reassures Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we are in the midst of a personal struggle or perhaps face to face with our own weakness in the flesh, Christ sends His grace to strengthen us. Grace is the unmerited favor of God for us on the cross, but I think scripture wants us to see that it didn’t stop there. Like a steroid shot in our injured knee or the fragrant waft of blessing into a dark room, Grace is one of God’s love languages. Perhaps, one of the ones that we least expect or know how to receive.
I went in search of the meaning of Grace in my first year of college. I had stumbled across Philip Yancey’s book, “What’s So Amazing about Grace” and I was so transfixed by it that I would read it while walking the half mile from home to class barely looking up to cross streets! I grew up steeped in the scriptures but no one had ever explained to me the concept of Grace as God’s daily dialogue with me. In the beginning of the book, Yancey retells Isak Dinesen’s moving short story entitled, “Babett’s Feast”. In it, Babette, a refugee fleeing Paris arrives at the doorstep of two austere and highly religious elderly Norwegian sisters. Babette agrees to cook for them for free in exchange for board. Without ruining too much of the plot, while living there, Babette finds herself with an influx of money and decides to spend it all by cooking an extravagant French meal for the sisters and a few guests. Although the group sets out committed to not enjoying it (suspecting it might appear sinful for one to experience so much pleasure), they eventually succumb to the decadence and beauty of the food. They soon find out about Babette spending all of her money on their meal and realize the truth that having done this she has forfeited her chance to return to Paris and the homeland she has been longing to see. Once all of these truths are revealed one of the guests exclaims: “We have all of us been told that Grace is to be found in the universe. But in our human foolishness and shortsightedness we imagine divine grace to be finite…. But the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite. Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude.”
What would it look like this week to explore more of God’s divine nature as it’s seen through his gracious character? What might it look like to await His grace with confidence and respond in gratitude? On Saturday, April 8th, we’ll be holding a half-day retreat entitled, “What’s so amazing about Grace? I have no idea!: An Exploration of the Reality of Grace”. During this retreat we’ll spend time on the concept of grace and hope to leave this day with new eyes to see and new ears to hear the grace that is all around us. We’d love to see you there!