What is Grace?

We have all heard the word "grace" thousands of times. The difficulty is an adequate definition. We know the promise of Ephesians 2:8 "for by grace you have been saved". We know the potential of our standing in grace (Romans 5:2). We know the acrostic often used for grace - God's Riches at Christ's Expense. But do we really know grace?  Just maybe we know it when we see it rather than defining it. 

G.K. Chesterton suggested that Saint Francis of Assisi “walked the world like the pardon of God.” The ultimate imitation of Christ is to patiently absorb sin and offer pardon in the name of love. This is grace.

Pastor Brian Zahnd says,  "If I were to pick a single moment that most clearly demonstrates who Jesus is and how he reveals the nature of God to us, it would be the moment of crucifixion when Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) This is grace demonstrated as a love supreme. It’s an unprecedented act — a plea for the pardon of his murderers. But, perhaps even more significantly, pardon is offered with a contemplative recognition that his persecutors are themselves enslaved in systems of sin that prevent them from having any real understanding of their crime or how to find their way out of it. This is the amazing grace of God that came to full expression in the life of Jesus."

When grace is pierced, it bleeds pardon. Grace at the root is closely associated with forgiveness, both giving it and receiving it. 

It is far more than that too. Listen to the words of Frederick Buechner.

After centuries of handling and mishandling, most religious words have become so shopworn nobody's much interested anymore. Not so with grace, for some reason. Mysteriously, even derivatives like gracious and graceful still have some of the bloom left.

Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There's no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.

A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace. Have you ever tried to love somebody?

A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There's nothing you have to do. There's nothing you have to do. There's nothing you have to do.

The grace of God means something like: "Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you."

There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it.

Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.

~originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words

We do not understand the mystery of grace. All we can know is it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it finds us. 

Father Richard Rohr says, "Grace is the divine Unmerited Generosity that is everywhere available, totally given, usually undetected as such, and often even undesired".

Opening up to grace and living grace with others is a lifelong journey. Become an explorer. 

Larry Pozza