The problem I see with us Christians today is we don’t seem to care what makes us unique; the difference is grace. Sure, there are several nuances unique to each religion and each denomination within each respective religion, however there is only one eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. The only difference I can see that amounts to anything is grace, but it doesn’t seem like that’s terribly important when we’re on the giving end.
The best definition I’ve heard of grace is love in action. If we want a clearer working definition, we have the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that was the perfect embodiment of what grace looks like. What I see in this is that grace can hurt. I hate to break it to you, but the Bible is filled with plenty of examples of people being killed or dealt with poorly while showing grace to the perpetrator(s). However, grace is our duty and responsibility (Romans 6:14). Let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that the life of the faithful believer is filled with health, wealth and prosperity here.
We are called in light of this to bring life, which God has brought us into, to the world and the lives around us. Here is the thing, however, there is no middle ground with grace. If we are not definitively bringing life into a situation, then we are contributing (willfully or apathetically) to its death. If grace is truly love in action, then bringing life into the world around us means acting in love regardless of the circumstances, not in spite of the circumstances. It is exemplifying Christ to everyone around without concern for how it looks or what is acceptable. Grace is counter-cultural. It was always meant to be, so let’s not try to make it vogue or attractive. That is merely kindness.
Grace is accepting the hurt, regardless of intention, of an action or situation and reciprocating love. I mentioned grace can hurt and I know from experience that it will at times. However, this is precisely what makes it radical. Grace, if it were easy, would negate the need for goodness in this world (I don’t know about you, but we could use a lot more goodness.) Faith would merely be an exercise taught in preschool like sharing and waiting in line. Grace is not cheap. In fact, it is the most expensive gift we can give in this life.
Most importantly, grace only comes from God (2 John 1:3). It seems this is where the communication breakdown occurs. The origin of grace is most prominently witnessed by Jesus’ well-known cry out to God, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24) Grace is a supernatural ability to deny every human impulse of revenge, justice and fairness and instead repay iniquity with blessing. It is beyond me to dismiss ill unfairly dumped upon me by a stranger, much more so by a loved one, and choose instead to return the favor with grace. However, it is not my responsibility to produce grace, because God knew my heart and tendencies from the beginning. How much has God showered me with grace up to today? How much more so will He when I ask to be empowered to share the overflow with others. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself,” and this is the perfect way to do so.
The difference is grace, because it is not a human response and is therefore meant to stand out in this world by nature, but we’ve dreadfully lost sight of this fact. Rather than put our faith in action, we settle for proclaiming articulate words of faith that fall empty with a lack of substance. It seems we are afraid of rolling up our sleeves and getting dirty with the visceral and real people around us. We are somehow afraid of sharing this life we’ve been given in abundance, maybe because we don’t understand it ourselves, I’m not sure. Whatever the cause, there is a critical disconnect. Finally, we don’t seek grace from the source. Because of the unattractiveness, effort and pain that is inherent in showing grace, we don’t think to ask for it from the Father. How selfish can we be? If grace which we have accepted through faith is the greatest gift we have received, how wicked do we have to be to deny granting it to others?