What is Grace?
Again, don’t blame me for the topic: someone asked 🙂
Of course I looked straight to the dictionary and the first definition surprised me – it was:
“simple elegance or refinement of movement”
which is not my first thought when I think about grace.
That kind of grace relates to being graceful which I always find entertaining when people use “graceful” when they mean “gracious”, which pertains to the kind of grace I think I mean. I like to imagine people gracefully receiving things – pirouetting onto the stage and doing a delicate swallow dive as they receive a reward or recognition for something.
But they mean ‘gracious’, which is to do with the first definition in the Sanstorm Dictionary (unpublished).
I find it hard to define grace without cliche – but anyway, here goes…
Grace is… something I occasionally get a glimpse of understanding. It makes sense for an instant, but then it is like remembering a dream, and becomes a slippery concept that is hard to pin down. I think it is a theological concept that sits at a tipping point on a see-saw of Justice, with Grace and Mercy playing on either end.
Justice holds the balance, weighing up right and wrong, determining guilt and innocence. Mercy is at one side, acknowledging that people have fallen short and deserve punishment, but decides to let them go. Grace is on the other end, dishing out undeserved benefits and bonuses.
Neither grace nor mercy seem just. It’s not fair that mercy be shown. It’s not fair that grace be shown. But the guilty party would be glad of the mercy. And surprised to be offered the grace too. For things to balance out, Justice has to work on that. And in this picture, I suppose that is God.
In theology, the balance comes through the cross, where Christ offered himself as a scapegoat for the world. As Charles Wesley put it:
He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite his grace-
Emptied himself of all but love
And bled for Adam’s helpless race
This infinite grace leaves us with several problems. As stated before, there is something profoundly unfair about grace. It is undeserved. As is mercy. What do we do about grace?
It only comes into play when we don’t have a leg to stand on. And when we don’t have a leg to stand on, we are weak. The apostle Paul said that the Lord had told him:
‘My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness”
from which Paul concluded:
“… when I am weak I am strong”
I think that to live in grace is to rely on God rather than on the self, and to see one’s weakness and to accept God’s promises.
Let us be graceful in our comments.
*sure hopes they spot the irony in the last sentence*