I purposely ended my last post before launching into one of my favorite subjects—Grace.
This topic has come up in some recent threads on The Ooze, so I’ve had a few opportunities to put words to my emerging beliefs about it.
What I’ve noticed is that when you talk to Christians, the responses you get to grace are as varied as the number of mainline denominations in America. I know that my understanding of the concept of grace has deepened and evolved over the last 16 years.
What I’m beginning to grasp is that grace really is a free gift from God, but it is a gift unopened and unused (I can hear diehard Calvinists cringing at the thought). In other words, God placed the hugest, best, most sufficient present under the cosmic Christmas tree, but it is up to us, the recipient, to unwrap it, to use it and to enjoy.
The point of it all is that grace is to be shared. Jesus said, “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” In other words, the more we use it and share it, the more we enjoy it. God wants His grace multiplied in the earth. And we are the conduits of that grace.
If all we do is talk about grace as a concept, in theological terms, then we become a bunch of windbags. God has not called us to be the pied pipers, hoping our song and dance will lead others to the gift of grace. He’s called us to action. We are participants in this redemption narrative called the Good News. We are the conduits of God’s grace in the earth. That requires action, not just words, concepts or theologies…and certainly not some song and dance (a shout out to my charismatic friends).
I truly believe this is what the apostle James was getting at when he wrote, “faith without deeds is useless.” I’ve always struggled with that verse in James 2:20. I always wondered where the balance point was between grace and works, because I was taught that praying the sinners’ prayer and making an honest confession were all that God required.
Grace is as useless to humankind as the unopened present under the tree holding all that blessed potential. The only way grace can be enjoyed is to be used in some way. That is where good deeds enter the faith equation. We must actively put grace into practice daily, so that its potential to change the world is unleashed. After all, who wants to play with an unopened gift? That’s all this concept of grace really is unless we use it, share it. And that’s the point, isn’t it?
Jesus said that we should feed His sheep, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit those in prison and so forth. Food to a starving person is Good News. It’s like the manna raining down from heaven. A friend to someone who is incarcerated and possibly shunned by their own family is Good News. Grace in action can take many forms, large or small.
God’s purpose is not just to fill some cosmic void called Heaven. He’s not a spurned lover looking to mere mortals for companionship. He wants His creation restored, healthy and whole. He’s poured out grace sufficient for the task at hand. What are we doing with it? Are we active participants in sharing the Good News? Are we conduits of His grace?