“Thank you” is what I try to remember to say when someone gives me a gift. It may be a gift of a tangible object, sometimes actually gift wrapped. Many gifts, however, can’t be gift wrapped: the giving of time, the long journey for a visit, making the effort to help, forgiveness, or words of affirmation. I express thanks, or at least I should, for that which I didn’t earn or don’t deserve, often called grace.
The word grace means “undeserved favor” which has much the same meaning as the idea of a gift. You don’t earn a gift; if you earned it then it becomes a payment, not a gift. When someone shows us grace it means they’ve given us the gift of what we did not earn and, therefore, don’t deserve.
Sometimes being extended grace means we are not given what we do deserve! I’ve had this kind of grace extended to me by more than one police officer who stopped me for a traffic violation. I could have been issued a ticket, but the officer decided to simply give me a warning instead. He showed me grace by not giving me what I deserved.
My wife Diann also extends grace to me on many occasions, cutting me some slack when I don’t do what I should do and when I do what I shouldn’t do. Almost everyone I know has extended me grace. I know, then, from personal experience, that grace that is received feels so good!
Sadly, we can take for granted grace that is extended to us, then we miss it altogether. An attitude of entitlement can also blind us to grace given us, thinking we deserve it. Some of the saddest, angriest, or most discontented people are those who’ve not acknowledged the grace given them. It’s only when we’re grateful for grace being extended to us that we’ve unwrapped the gift of grace and can truly enjoy the gift!
Not only is the role of grace so essential to human relationships, it’s absolutely crucial to a relationship with God. As long as we think we have to earn God’s favor we’re going to feel like a miserable failure on our worst days and a prideful super achiever on our good days. Neither is the way to be close to God. Grace is the way, accepting God’s grace extended to us.
The word grace appears about 114 times in the New Testament of the Bible. As far as I know there’s no other religion in the world that has such a focus on grace. The message is clear in the Bible: it’s only by the grace of God that we can be in a personal and eternal relationship with Him. Being a truly religious person is responding with gratitude to God’s grace!
Now that I’m gray haired, wrinkled, and well into my senior years I’ve come to the conviction that the concept of grace is of supreme importance. It’s so important that if I had to determine how effective a person, who I did not know personally, was in his or her human relationships and in their relationship with God I wouldn’t ask them to talk about faith, hope, or love. I’d ask them to tell me about their understanding and experience of grace.
Coming to a deeper understanding of grace and being intentional about living a grace-filled life is the key to living a fulfilled life. Grace is so amazing!
“For from his [Jesus’] fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16