How Would You Define “Grace?”
[Enter your thought here.]
Here’s why I ask:
The essence of grace has been something I’ve been wrestling with a lot lately. I’m working through the jumble I’ve inherited from all over: dear friends, theologians I admire, and cliche that’s magnetized to my conscience (as I view it in hindsight).
I believe my concoction is confused, but what’s most perplexing is how I feel I have so many answers for such a simple (and essential) question.
I wonder, “Why the diversity?”
The most vibrant answer from hindsight is this: God looks at us with “rose colored glasses” and no longer sees our sin, but instead, only sees Jesus’ righteousness.
I’ll cut to the chase and share where I’m at:
“Rose colored glasses” is not grace.
Grace does not cover up sin but transforms both sin and the sinner.
Grace is not God looking the other way but rather looking right at you and me right in our depravity and saying, “I love you and I will not overlook or pretend to do a magic trick in front of you that distracts you from the reality that you are stuck in sin, in dead-end living. I love you – and though you will pour your most fierce contempt and rejection toward me (as you continue to participate in crucifying me) I will say, ‘I love you even when you don’t know what you’re doing.’ I will not leave you and will not let you stay here; I have found you and I intend to bring you into the life of a new era.”
The transformation happens as God’s Spirit begins to cultivate new life within us and we begin walking in the way of Jesus. Life isn’t a display of perfection but the container of vitality.
…and it’s grace (a gift) because we’re found in the muck of our habits and secrets not by a happen-stance God who just sort of sees us there, but by a deliberate, incarnational God who has come searching for someone who has already rejected God’s ways and God’s reign.
Why not the rose glasses?
I am connected with my decisions, both good and bad – they are extensions of who I am (for good and bad). And to say that God puts on blinders is to say that God doesn’t see you or me but sees some fairy-tale imagining, some projection of what he would prefer to see but can’t really if he looks at the real us.
We know that’s not like Jesus and we know that Jesus is the vitality of God.
More that me being seen or not seen, though, is that if God is wandering around with baptism-infused, rose-colored glasses, then can he see the pain my unjust actions cause so he can undo them (and bring justice for both me and my neighbor – a setting back to right, if you will)? What about mercy (since mercy always comes with justice – you can’t have one without the other)?
So then: the great gift of Grace is God’s ability to fully see us as we are and for God to still have the impulse and desire to pull us from the mire we’re in toward the imitation of his Son, Jesus.
And that, the imitation of Jesus without prohibition, is the vitality of “salvation.” To be caught up in the free imitation of Jesus is to contain new life, life of a new era, and to “know God.” This only happens on God’s initiative. God in Trinity fashion is our savior – our king, our savior, our renovative artist.
[I wonder how our answers relate.]