I was recently with a group of mostly non-Christians friends, as I so often am. By "non-Christian" I mean friends that haven't admitted to me, at least, in believing that Jesus Christ is the living son of God. These friends may be privately following Christ and studying the Bible, but I suspect they are not. Some are moralists. Some are Universalists with a mix of Spiritualism and yoga. Some are just angry at a God they don't think exists. I truly love them and I'm OK with their non-belief. I pray for them often. As I was spending time with these friends I became overwhelmed, in the moment, as I contemplated the love and acceptance that they display to me and my family.
Thank you non-Christians, for your grace.
Grace is the free and unmerited, undeserved love you give. Grace is espoused from within. Grace follows a choice to love, but grace is part of your fabric - woven into your DNA. But where does grace come from?
If you were to tell me you were freezing cold, and I responded by saying, "Have you ever heard of a blanket? They exist, you know. Now that you know that, you can be warm." But I never actually produced a blanket to cover and warm you. Now, would that suffice in protecting you from the cold? No, of course not. Similarly, the mere existence of grace isn't enough to feel it's heartfelt love. We must make a choice whether or not we give this grace that is manifested within. We must engage, sacrifice, get-over ourselves and get vulnerable in order to give grace to someone.
"Grace" has certainly been growing in popularity as a name for little girls. I've seen a lot of first and middle names of "Grace" in the last several years. Does naming a child thus represent a longing for for more unmerited love in your life? Does it mean you are granting your baby girl the free gift of your unending, unconditional love until the day you die? Or is it just a pretty name that happens to be trending?
For followers of Christ, grace is no joke. I can't possibly characterize what grace means to me better than how Brennan Manning does in "The Ragamuffin Gospel,"
Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last 'trick', whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.
'But how?' we ask.
Then the voice says, 'They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'
There they are. There *we* are - the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life's tribulations, but through it all clung to faith.
My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.My belief is that a certain amount of grace is common to all - innumerable gifts that all of humanity and nature receive from a loving creator. This might look like the sunshine on your face, the laughter of a baby, air in your lungs, or the ability to communicate. These are things that we become entititle to, because we don't acknowledge them as gifts. If you want to explore what this means from a Christian theological perspective, there is a "doctrine of common grace" that Keller does a great job of explaining here: http://goo.gl/TBA2Nb
The kind of grace Brennan Manning speaks of is knee-bucking, you-sacrificed-your-life-to-save-me-so-I-owe-it-all-to-you-kind of grace. This is a grace that says you are loved and accepted no matter who you are or what you've done. Simply lay down your burdens, stand with arms wide open, and receive this gift of eternal love and rest from your creator. (Matthew 11:28) Once we receive this kind of uncommon grace and live our lives knowing there is hope beyond this screwed up world, how much more freedom do we have to show grace to one another? How much more do we recognize the common grace that we're currently too self-absorbed to see? The grace that Jesus offers is the starting point to a life illuminated, a life more colorful, and a life adorned by love.