Recently I was asked, “just what exactly is “grace?” And “why is it important?”
To start, Merriam-Webster defines grace in several ways:
1. Unmerited divine assistance granted to humans for their regeneration or sanctification
2. Approval, or Favor
3. A charming or attractive trait or characteristic
4. —used as a title of address or reference for a duke, a duchess, or an archbishop
5. A short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks
6. Disposition to, or an act, or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
We can narrow this down to two as we seek the answer to this question, #1 and #6.
Taking #1 first: John Stott+, Anglican Priest, theologian and author wrote, “Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.” Paul Zahl+, Episcopal Priest, theologian and prior Dean and President of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry wrote, “Grace is unconditional love toward a person who does not deserve it.” And St. Paul wrote, God raised us up with Christ…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:6a, 8-10
Our English word “grace,” as we refer to it in Holy Scripture, is a translation of two biblical words: Chesed and Charis. Chesed is Hebrew from the Old Testament; it means God’s provision which delivered the people from their enemies or afflictions. Charis is Greek from the New Testament; it refers to God’s caring for those who do not deserve God’s caring.
The Grace of God is the most beautiful and powerful thing we will ever encounter. Grace is God reaching downward to a people who are constantly pushing back against Him, who are in rebellion against Him. Grace is love to those who don’t deserve it, reject it, and deny it. Grace is assurance and peace and hope and joy unmerited, always there and always offered without reservation.
Tullian Tchividjian wrote in his book, One-Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World:
Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing.
Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love. Pg. 32-33
To be a Christian, to seek after God and know Jesus Christ, is to accept the Grace that only God can give. We are only who we are by the Grace of God, it is by God’s grace alone that we can participate in what God is doing in the world. Through God’s Grace, God calls us to be a part of His mission, we participate in the plan of redemption given to us by Jesus on the Cross. So, here we have the answer to the question by way of expanding definition #1: "Unmerited divine assistance granted to humans for their regeneration or sanctification." But what of #6?
The sixth definition in our list, "disposition to, or an act, or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency," refers to a different kind of grace; a grace that is derivative, born out of a manor life. As recipients of God’s Grace, we are privileged to serve as agents of Grace. We receive Grace (Acts 11:23), are encouraged to continue in Grace (Acts 13:43), and are called to testify to the Grace of God (Acts 20:24). Grace empowers us to go to the sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors of our days and love them with the love of Christ. We extend God’s Grace to all people because of the Grace God has shown to us, and in this, our manner of life is changed.
Living a “Grace-Filled Life” (def #1) we are able to live “grace-fully” (def #6) in the way we act, communicate, and interact. In Titus 2:11-12 Paul writes, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Grace transforms our desires, behaviors, actions, and motivations.
Accepting God’s Grace is important because, from it, all Spiritual growth flows and in it, all spiritual awareness radiates. When we live in God’s Grace, we are transformed, and grace becomes us. Max Lacedo, Pastor and author wrote in his book, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine: "Grace is God's best idea. His decision to ravage a people by love, to rescue passionately, and to restore justly - what rivals it? Of all his wondrous works, grace, in my estimation, is the magnum opus." Receiving God’s Grace, we live to pass it on.
A true understanding of Grace—of God’s unmerited favor—always provokes a life of grace, gratitude, and obedience.
Grace be unto you!
Father Bill Burk†