It seems this week that I will draw on a Greek philosopher for the feel of this post. My question, one that is undeniably paramount in my heart is what does grace look like? In other words, what is the essence of grace? Anyone here having images of Socrates, yes, he is the one in particular I am drawing from in this question. When you get down to the heart of it, what does this five-letter logic bomb mean?
I will now play the part of the lawyer asked of the essence of piety and tell you what I know grace not to be. Grace, is not an attempt to forget. Grace does not simply ignore in some sort of blissful ignorance. We are humans, not doormats. Because the Bible encourages us to “turn the other cheek,” this does not mean we are to bow to all who wish ill on us and take it on as our calling to lead a miserable and spineless existence. Finally, grace is not dependent upon change in the wrongdoer. Grace is not conditional or with any strings attached or every Christian would be nothing more than Pinocchio. We cannot use it as a powerplay to force the sanctification unwillingly of the person in the wrong, because none of us are God therefore none of us can change anyone’s heart which is the only means by which repentance can be achieved. To all this, Socrates would reply, “You have told me what it is not, but what is it?” It is also not turning a blind eye toward wrongdoing and blindly move on. This is a sad state of disillusionment. Grace is not accepting all bad things as essentially good and without consequence and continuing once again in an ignorant stupor.
I will try harder, so that I might think of what grace really is in human terms. Grace is the action that accompanies a heart of love. It is the accepting of the consequences of another’s wrong and not holding onto the hurt, but letting go of the reaction fueled by hurt because of the recognition of God’s absolute sovereignty. Grace is love unharmed by an attack, with or without intention, on that love and the relationship attached to it. So let’s get straight what I have said above. Acknowledging the fact that God can do anything, let’s suppose that He can fill a heart, a human heart of flesh, with love. I am to assume that grace then is whenever love leads to any action such as a show of affection toward a loved one? While I may have asserted earlier that we are not doormats, it seems that we are compost piles with a heavenly farmer to cultivate. This seems like a miserable existence. Overall, grace seems to be turning a blind eye to actions against love of any kind that are merely accepted by the afflicted and pushed on like a plate of unwanted food under the table to the family dog played by God.
These may be possible objections to grace, but they are all rather far from the truth. It seems that I am not able to put grace and its essence into human words, possibly because there are none or maybe simply because I am incapable of eloquence here. Either way, I will try to explain through example. Grace is when our best friend on the earth does the one thing thought to be unforgivable, yet God opens your eyes to the many times He’s forgiven you and you in turn are able to come to that person and with a whole heart, forgive them as well. You acknowledge ad experience the hurt inside, yet you trust that God is working through the situation in all parties involved with the faith that it is all still in His good, perfect and pleasing plan and you turn around and work together with your friend to repair what was broken and strive side by side forward and upward. It is a stranger taking what is most valuable to you and when given the opportunity for retribution, relying on God’s justice in a higher court. Instead of earthly justice by a judge and jury, you seek forgiveness from the God of forgiveness and love the guilty party in the wake of destruction and brokenness.
Why grace, though? What is the motivation for this paradoxical act? Here is the crux of this entire post. Grace is 1 John 4:9-11 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” It is because while we were mired in death under the Law, Christ came and gave us life. It is Romans 5 and 6. Grace is freedom from death that is the only penalty of sin. It is the restoration of the dead. It is the light in the dark. Grace is salvation only made possible through the love of a God whose love is infinite. Grace is the ultimate sacrifice that is the only vehicle most capable of achieving the highest purpose in this universe. Grace is the magnification of God’s glory in the most unlikely of circumstances. Drawing from a mentor and coworker, grace is the infusion of life into what for all intents and purposes is dead and lifeless.