The longer my spiritual journey with Christ, the more I travel down the road named the essential nature of grace. I am convinced on a human level and especially on the spiritual level, the absence of grace leads to death. Every meaningful relationship requires grace. As Pastor Ed mentioned the painted rock defined grace as “the face love wears when it meets imperfection.” I experience imperfection all around me, especially when I look in the mirror. We all need grace as no one is perfect for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Understanding grace and its impacts seem to be so difficult for humankind. The current human climate of our nation post-election is more than sufficient proof. We are all steeped in what I label as the “Exchange Theory” of human interaction whether it is economics, politics, human relationships and even the salvation offered by God. Everything is based on exchanging something of value for another item of value and without this transfer, nothing is accomplished. This quid pro quo or “I scratch your back and you scratch mine” environment may make sense for financial matters but can be quite hostile in relationships. Most of us have grown up in relationships that operate with exchange theory and have passed the same down through our children. Scenarios such as you like me and I will like you; be nice to me and I will be nice to you; if you obey me I will give you a reward, or if you love me you will do what I say are common. Such conditioning of our love and affection leads to self-doubt, insecurity, co-dependency, bullying, and many emotionally charged illnesses and add to that, the inability to give or receive grace freely. I find that any relationship is doomed to misery or death without grace and its sibling, mercy.
My sister’s birthday is this week. I am the elder brother and back when we were children, I was not a good big brother. I was mean at times, selfish often, teased her regularly and on occasion struck a single blow to her thigh to end an argument. It wasn’t with all my might but with enough force and located on a specific spot that the talking stopped immediately. Yet, as a child, she still wanted to be connected with me and treated me kindly. This continued through junior high and high school. If you are wondering, by then, I stopped giving out the “Charlie horse” blow. I saw things in a different light once I received Jesus in college and her in high school. When she received Christ she ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug. It was very special. Not too long ago out of the blue she purchased a car for me when I first became a pastor on staff at GateWay. She said she wanted to support my ministry. It wasn’t like she had a large cache of cash. She made payments monthly from her paycheck as a high school counselor. This certainly was undeserved and uncalled for; a tangible example of giving and receiving grace. She has continued to be gracious, generous and merciful as she has all the reasons to mete out punishment on me. And not by coincidence but by divine guidance, my sister’s name is Grace.
What if we all lived daily giving and receiving grace and mercy? How different would our life, our families, our workplaces, our community, our nation and our world be? I think it is past time we Christ-followers take up the challenge of giving grace and mercy daily and in concrete ways.