Saturday, October 10, 2015
We say it before meals. A ballerina has it. A girl is named it. It's a noun. It's a verb—the king will grace us with his presence. And it's a word sprinkled throughout the New Testament.
What is it really?
The best definition I've found for grace is unmerited favor.
Unmerited: unearned, not worked for, not deserved in any way.
Favor: excessive kindness or unfair partiality; preferential treatment.
This is what God extends toward us. And so many of us, having sung songs like Amazing Grace hundreds of times and having heard dozens of sermons on the topic, are desensitized to just how utterly, amazingly, mind-boggling this is. We've heard this all our lives. So we tune out. We disregard the subject as being basic. Let's get to the more challenging stuff, right?
Truth is, we've barely grasped the fringe of it. Oftentimes the basics are the deepest, most profound parts of our faith—elements that take a lifetime and more to truly dig into.
Grace—unmerited favor—is what grew inside a teenaged girl's womb.
Grace is what walked the planet, confining God to the limits of human skin.
Grace is what touched untouchable lepers.
Grace is what fed thousands of people who, not long after, would desert the One who fed them.
Grace is what turned itself over to be crucified on a Roman cross.
Grace is what looks at you, in all the dirt of your failings and the scars of your wrongs, and smiles and says, "You are flawless."
We have watered down this concept of grace. It's too good to be true, so we add our own "truth" to it. We say there's grace for the sinner, and after that? Well, you'd better work for it. God gives you a slice of grace when you choose to follow Him, and then you must tread carefully, so as not to use it all up. Because there's only so and so much of it. If you go too far (and we all draw different lines of what that is), if you make too many mistakes, or too large of a mistake . . . You'd best hope there's enough mercy left for you.
It sounds ludicrous to say it so bluntly. But many of us, without realizing, think this way. And in so doing, we scoff at a grace so dearly bought, and say, "It's not enough."
"It's not enough. Jesus' work on the cross is not really a finished work; surely I must add something to it. Surely there's an if or a when attached."
But grace is not a well, able to dry up after so much use. Grace is a waterfall, an unending supply of lavish kindness that is completely undeserved.
Expecting parents couldn't be more excited for their coming child. They prepare a nursery, buy clothes and toys and blankets, read books on how to care for it. And when the baby arrives, oh, the joy! This baby keeps them up at night, soils its diapers, spits up on things, wails to high heaven, and generally does nothing at all to deserve any love. And yet those parents would give their very lives for their child.
That's the kind of love, the kind of grace, God has toward you and me. We've done absolutely nothing to earn it. How could we? Even if we lived to the very best of our ability, put in our highest effort, how could any of it even tip the scales toward an even balance? How could it even begin to match the weight of grace? To even try is to negate its very meaning.
And that baby? When it starts learning to walk, only to fall down again and again? Mom and Dad don't scold it. They don't smack it upside the head and say, "Why can't you learn to walk straight without tripping? Get it together!" No, they cheer their child on. "You can do it! Come on, that's it. Look at you—you're doing so well!"
When we fall, our Father picks us up and cheers us on. In fact, it's that grace that enables and empowers us to learn to walk.
Let's rediscover the meaning of grace, my friends.