Grace has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s one of those words that gets bandied around a lot in Christian circles, a word more regularly heard than understood perhaps. It might be familiar from songs and Bible verses, but how often is it truly grasped?
Whilst on holiday recently I was reading a book about grace. Max Lucado’s Grace is a great book, written in his own accessible style and exploring the sheer scope of grace. Problem was, I was reading about it but not showing it. Despite being in a lovely place away from the autumn rains at home my heart was full of discontent. Little things were niggling. Couldn’t there be more sunshine? Why is it so noisy at night? Why can’t our toddler sleep better? The list goes on. Talk about first world problems. With a jolt I realised that I was exemplifying a particularly vivid phrase from the book: my attitude was polluting our holiday like a volcano’s ash-cloud.
So I braced myself for the backlash. The reprimand I deserved, the cold shoulder that would have been warranted. But my wife showed me grace. She didn’t deny that I was being a grumpy kill-joy or all-round pain in the backside, but she did show me great patience and undeserved favour, transcending the rights and wrongs of the situation to help me find peace. She gave me extra time for myself – the introvert’s cure – and imposed no burden of guilt or blame. What she was doing was grace in action.
When it hit me, that thought transformed my attitude and greatly improved our holiday. It also helped to crystallise and bring to life what I’d been reading. Suddenly I found myself grasping instead of griping.
An encounter with grace changes things.
The grace we read about or know in our heads pales beside grace in action. Let’s not try and package it up in a neat little box, something we can point to and say, ‘there, that’s grace’. The real thing, the relentless, overflowing reality of God’s love, acceptance and favour, is breath-taking. Grace with a capital ‘G’ is so much more important than the little ‘g’ grace said over dinner; so much more fulfilling than that person who is graceful.
What else can be said? Grace is undeserved. Grace gives despite the grievance. Grace is not just the overlooking of a negative but the bestowal of a positive. Grace is generosity with gusto. Grace is not limited in its applicability. Grace is not diminished through overuse. Grace keeps on coming.
And grace is for sharing. 2 Corinthians 9:8 in the ESV says this: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
We’re not just given grace so that we might have it, but so that we can participate in its dispersal. Notice how grace plays a starring role in all of Paul’s letters. He’s so keen to share it that every single one (all thirteen – I’ve checked) starts and in some case ends with grace. Just as it was ubiquitous in the New Testament, so grace should season our every conversation and interaction. My wife shared grace with me, Paul shared it with his readers, and I’ve done my best to share it with you now.
My challenge for you is to think about who you could share grace with. They don’t have to be Christian; there’s no checklist to see if they qualify. If there’s one thing our society is seriously lacking, it’s grace. The world around is much more interested in the familiar and uncompromising equation that everyone gets what they deserve. The blame game. That makes grace counter-cultural. Controversial, even.
When you share grace, others might find it baffling, shocking, surprising, but all the more necessary for it. The people around us don’t need to be told about an abstract concept, they need to be shown it. Where the world earns, grace gives. Where the world punishes, grace forgives. And where the world rewards, grace offers something far richer. Full, complete, undeserved, unrestricted forgiveness and adoption into God’s family.
My prayer is that you will encounter the grace of God in a new and fresh way. Not just reading about it, hearing about it or even trying to define it. But experiencing it. Don’t settle for the vague concept; grasp the real thing.