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Grace

GRACE is one of my favorite words. GRACE. In theological terms it means  “the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.” (via Dictionary.com) 

Unmerited.

Meaning I didn’t do anything to deserve it.  I didn’t become perfect. I didn’t score enough points via doing good deeds. I didn’t pray enough prayers, read enough scripture passages, or go to church an adequate number of times. I didn’t light enough candles, give enough offering, sing enough praise songs (or even hymns).

I was so hard on myself, most of my life. I knew I was supposed to be perfect; I knew. No one came right out and said it, but I understood that I was supposed to never cuss, always share with my sister, never backtalk my parents, never tell a lie. I was supposed to look right, act right, sound right, clean my room right, and get good grades. I knew, though, that I didn’t measure up!  I cussed at school so my friends would think I was as cool as they. I cheated on tests a few times because I was so scared of the repurcussions of failing. I got annoyed when my little sister wanted my stuff. I didn’t share. I had a messy room.

I remember a well-intentioned couple from my college church discussing a mutual acquaintance.  They said that he hadn’t been coming to church on Sunday nights anymore, just Sunday mornings. (Baptists go to church, or at least when I was growing up, on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.) They actually said that they thought he must be falling away from God because he wasn’t present every time the church met! (Backslider!) I am not kidding. They measured one’s closeness to God by how often one made it to church.  This is not GRACE.  This is legalism. Keeping rules in order to measure up, and to receive favor with God. It scared me. I knew I would never measure up!

As a result of this kind of experience, repeated year after year in my life and in my own mind, I began to think that God was really mad at me. I pictured God just shaking His head in disgust as He saw me fail at keeping all the rules and at meeting everyone’s demands of me, real or imagined.

It’s weird, because I had read Ephesians 2:8-9 many times (the Baptist church is excellent at teaching members the Scriptures; I love that). It says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Here are those verses in context from a modern paraphrase, The Message. I love how it elaborates! 🙂

Ephesians 2:8-9 (The Message)

 7-10Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:16-18

And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
Romans 11:5-7

Below are the lyrics of one of my favorite songs, Grace, by U2, my favorite band. I especially love the line that says that grace “travels outside of karma.” That’s good. Karma means getting what you deserve; reaping what you sow, the Bible says. I know that that is part of life, but when grace enters the picture, you have the undeserved favor Jesus provides.

GRACE

(music and lyrics written by U2)

Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace, it’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

Grace finds beauty in everthing.

Grace finds goodness in everything.

I’m so thankful for grace. From my people, from God. I know I’m not perfect, and neither are you. But you know what? We’re still loved. And I just wanted to tell you that.

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12 thoughts on “Grace

  1. Excellent blog on the meaning of grace. I was always taught that grace means God’s Rescue At Christ’s Expense. He paid the price in full. Our gift is God’s unmerited favor when we accept and trust the work of the cross. Resting in his grace brings such peace of mind and heart. Thanks for reminding me how wonderful it is.

    1. I agree, Cindy; it’s a beautiful thing! When we learn that we can’t earn God’s love, but that He gives it to us freely, it is so freeing! We can then just lean on Him and walk in peace and love instead of wasting our time in condemnation. We just have to be willing to have that relationship with Him.
      Thanks for commenting, friend! 🙂

  2. It’s free….thank you for this wonderful post. I can slow the pace of my begging, bc I don’t just pray 🙂 I have to learn to TRUST too.

    1. I’m glad it meant something to you, sweet friend! Sometimes it is hard to let ourselves trust, but it’s essential. He wants what it best for us! 🙂

  3. What a great post! As a recovering perfectionist I always felt that pressure to do everything right like you described. And the legalism of some churches can stifle you from becoming who God wants you to be. While I still attend a baptist church I’ve let go of that pressure. I know I have God’s grace. (And I also know that if I’m not at church on Sunday nights I’m not falling away from the Lord – and I no longer worry if anyone else thinks that I am.) 🙂

    1. Amy, it seems that this is a predominant theme for Christians; we have a Bible that teaches us about grace, but we don’t give it to each other. It’s awesome that you have learned not to try to please people in this area, but to stay on track with God. It’s only His approval that we need, anyway, right? 🙂

  4. Couldn’t agree with you more, Steph! The more I get to know you, the more I realize how very very much our hearts are on the same page, having traveled quite parallel journeys. When I moved to Tyler in ’91, a couple of people from my home church gave me a copy of “The Grace Awakening”, Chuck Swindoll’s newest book. I didn’t realize it at the moment, but that was KEY.

    During the last year of my work as Youth Pastor at The Chapel, an undercurrent of legalism had crept into the church and many of the homes of our previously free and grace-oriented members. Some big guy was telling them the proper steps to raising perfect children and proving what he said was true verse after verse. I’ll let you guess who I’m talking about and you’ll probably be right… but even if you don’t get his exact name and organization, you’ll surely name an equally insidious counterpart.

    Anywho, I read the book, spotted what legalism looks like versus grace and determined that two things would always mark me from that point forward… first, I would have a “YES” face instead of a “NO” face and second, I would rise up and quickly fight one thing — legalism.

    Sometimes I’ve taken that to an extreme, but big fat hairy deal. The legalists I have called on the carpet can get over it, because I am defending all of us from their wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing influence. Those kind of people don’t really like me because I have a tendency to expose them, privately first, then publicly if they persist or hang around. (Ask for some stories sometime if you want a big ole grace-filled belly laugh). I’m not very nice when the Law comes calling. 🙂

    You’re so right on target, friend. Keep tweetin’ and postin’ up the grace we have in Jesus. You were made for this day we live in when the voice of a soccer mom in Mineola, TX can trumpet the freeing grace of Jesus from the rooftops with no more than a laptop and iPhone!

    1. Todd, I’m so glad you shared all that with me. Grace is my life word now, I guess you could say. I wear it around my neck on a charm, and inscribed on the back is the ref to Eph. 2:8-9. I ponder it, seriously, nearly every day. I’m hungry for more of it (not like for God to give me more of it, as I know He’s given all I need; I’m hungry to appropriate it in my life, I should say) for myself and the people I’m around who seem to be lacking it, either for themselves or for the people in their lives. I am usually pretty bold to turn the conversation there. Usually.
      God used Chuck Swindoll to get across to you; He used Kay Arthur’s “Lord, I Need Grace to Make It” to reach me! I love how He does that!

    1. Kevin, thank you so much for the nice comment and the offer to contribute to my blog. I think that’d be great! 🙂 Details?

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