(As appeared in the Mt Zion/Barkers Chapel UMC newsletter for May 2014)
I looked into the eyes of my friend, who had tears spilling, and listened as a question tumble out. “What is grace? You talk about it all the time. What is it?” For a moment, a split second, I had no words. I never think of grace in terms of words. For me it’s an overwhelming expression of love. It’s the biggest part of love. It can’t be separated from love. The question came on the heels of my saying that all the worlds problems could be solved with one single thing. Just one thing…GRACE. If we all practiced it, every single thing would be different. Everything.
I sat a moment and tried to think. Grace is like nothing else. I wont try to put it in theological terms. Here is how I understand it best. To understand grace you have to first understand mercy. Think of compassion, leniency, and kindness, as they are other ways to describe mercy. It would be giving someone imprisonment when they deserve death, it’s giving my kid a one-day grounding when they deserve a week. It’s receiving less than you deserve to pay for something.
Grace? Grace is like a magic eraser. God’s grace is writing all the wrongs on a chalkboard, in detail, with all the ugliness fully exposed (because God knows it all whether we confess it all or not) and God taking an eraser and wiping the board clean, so that not even left over chalk dust can expose what was written there. It’s gone. God CAN remember, but he CHOOSES to forget.
There was a time in history when people had to go to a temple, confess their sins and wrongs, and offer up a blood sacrifice in order to be washed clean of it. It was the only way to know forgiveness. Then God said, “ENOUGH!” He decided to give the world a gift that only HE could give. He sent his sinless, spotless, perfect son into the world to experience our pain, our trials, our sufferings, and our temptations, so he would fully understand us. He wanted to really understand our humanness. Then he allowed His son to pay for all of our sins, our wrongs, our evil. He wanted to end the bloodshed. So He sacrificed his OWN son and said that all we had to do was to love HIM. That would be enough now. All we had to do was to love, and say yes.
Christians today often make this out to be so hard. There are things you have to do to be saved, steps to take in order to know God, to be a REAL christian. Nope. None of it is in the Bible. The only thing that is? Know that Jesus was the Son God sent to us as a gift. Tell God in your own words, wherever you are, that you want to be covered by a love that wipes clean all you have done, you do, all you WILL do, and that you really want to have a relationship with Him. Tell Him you’d like to get to know Him better. Tell Him you’d like to be a better person.
You and God can do that alone, anyplace you are, anytime of day or night. He’s awake, ready, and listening. That small warm spot that hears the voice in your head when you talk to yourself? Yeah, that’s God listening to you there if you want Him to be. Truly. It’s that easy. You don’t even have to say it out loud. He hears you if you call out to him in your heart. He’s that amazing.
My friend sat with tears streaming, understanding dawning, and a light beginning. Grace is so precious, it’s so beautiful, and it’s unbelievably hard to understand because it’s so simple.
Can you imagine a world where everyone practiced GRACE? Giving grace to each other, to other peoples, cities, nations? Grace would change hearts and we’d care about so much more than the newest gadget we covet…when there’s someone going hungry. Yes. Grace changes EVERYTHING.