The other evening in our discipleship group we talked about grace. Defining grace wasn't necessarily easy, but each person understood what grace is, even if they didn't have the words, because each time they experienced grace from someone, whether God or someone around them, they knew exactly what it was. As I've thought about our discussion and stories from that evening over the past couple of days, I noticed a recurring theme: grace was an active response or approach to them at specific times or in specific moments. Grace always built them up, helped them to experience God's love and presence, allowed them to feel hope or acceptance.
Grace is not passive, it's an engagement into the lives of people, or the events around you, speaking or acting in ways that creates an atmosphere or presence where others are lifted up and community is strengthened. Grace is the giving of respect and honour, it is acts of love.
Grace is powerful in our time because of how often un-grace is shown. Living at a time where the internet and social media are so powerful and shaming is more and more common, grace is becoming a counter cultural way of living and relating to each other.
God is the source of grace. God fills our world and lives with grace. Our role is to allow God's grace to flow through us into the world around us. But it's more than just allowing grace to flow through us, as followers of Jesus, it's about actively looking for ways to offer grace and to fight for grace so that our families, our churches and our communities become places of grace.
Monday, 4 May 2015
It's amazing how quickly time goes by. I just realized how long it's been since I posted here. Life gets busy and some things get put to the side, for this past couple of months it's been the blog. Good Friday and Easter have gone by and over that time I've been reflecting on what grace looks like. When I read through Scripture, grace shows up as the big theme of God's relationship with us: forgiveness that we don't deserve and cannot earn, along with adoption into a world and life changing family. Yet as I read through facebook, many Christian magazines and blogs, I wonder why grace is so often missing in our relationships with the world around us and with each other in the Christian family. What worries me the most is how ungracious behaviour within the church is justified: "we're in a culture war," "we need to stand up for what is right and denounce evil," "we need to protect the Christian faith which is under attack from government, society," or whatever opponent you might choose to fit in here. Strong language that separates people into "us" and "them" is used so often, especially in the debates concerning sexuality issues. The debate about gay and lesbian Christians in the church has seldom been grace-filled with a concern for those who are trying to figure out how to be gay and Christian and walking with them in love. Then there is the area of politics where faith and politics get mixed together in some strange and unhealthy and graceless ways and there is actual doubt cast about opponent's faith simply because they see how society might be better than things are now. Too often we create gods and demons rather than see people trying to figure out faith, God, church and life. Where has the grace gone that invites people into a closer relationship with God; that models the love of neighbour and God?
I'm not saying we cannot believe in right and wrong, there is right and wrong ways of living according to the Bible, there are right and wrongs ways of relating to God, but I am saying we need to be much more humble and aware of our own brokenness and sin first and perhaps we will be more quick to offer grace as a starting point in a relationship rather than fear or anger. If our starting points are our differences, how can we get to the place where we recognize each other as image bearers of God, sons and daughters of the king, and the bride of the bridegroom?
Our example of how to speak and relate to each other, no matter our differences, is Jesus whose harshest words were for the most righteous because of their lack of grace. Jesus lived out grace by being among and with the disgraced and sinners and inviting them to follow him. The story of the woman caught in adultery has asterisks around it because it's not in the earliest manuscripts, but I believe the story made it into the Bible because it shows grace and how to address sin with grace. Jesus first protects against the woman from the most righteous of the righteous, picks her up from the ground, tells her he does not condemn her and then says, "Now go and sin no more." This is grace, may we learn to be more grace-filled as followers of Jesus.