May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14
Early last Friday morning, while sipping coffee during my devotions, I read the verse noted above and copied it into my journal. I’d seen and heard this verse many times. The conclusion of Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, a benediction that references each member of the Trinity as the source of one aspect of his blessing prayer.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The love of God. The fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Grace, love, fellowship. Those three words became a song I couldn’t get out of my head. That evening, during our dinner conversation, I mentioned the verse to Keith—and the three specific qualities.
“I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around grace,” I said. “Love and fellowship make sense to me, at least on a superficial level. But what is grace? Really.”
“The love of God refers to His creation,” he said, “fellowship to guidance. Grace usually refers to salvation.”
Many of us are confused about the meaning of words related to faith.
“Imagine a world where grace mostly refers to prima ballerinas and sin conjures an image of molten chocolate cake. Envision a reality in which God is only shouted when your hammer misses the nail and saved refers to what you do with your 401(k),” writes Jonathan Merritt in Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing and How We Can Revive Them. (57) I mentioned his book in a post two years ago.
Merritt studies the meanings of faith words, including grace: “Each definition of grace I encountered, without exception, contained at least three components:
- Something that flows from God to humans, usually leading to ‘salvation’
- Something that God offers freely—and undeserved gift
- Something that God offers joyfully.” (143)
Salvation, gift, joy. Then Merritt digs a little deeper. Though we need a better understanding of grace, he states, talking about it may be uncomfortable. On the receiving end, grace is lovely, free and joyful; on the giving end, grace can be costly and painful.
I thought about the old adage: It’s better to give than to receive. In this case, we all want to receive grace but rarely like to give it. It’s hard to find anyone giving grace on social media these days. Love and forgiveness? Mercy?
Justice met by mercy can seem unjust; we like to punish wrong-doers. A lot. What seems harder to accept is when someone we wouldn’t consider worthy of grace gets it anyway. As in the parable of the prodigal son or the workers in the vineyard, people who show up at the end of the day and receive a joyous welcome or get paid the same as those who labored all day or all their lives. Unfair!
I thought about another old adage: Justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve, and grace is getting what you don’t deserve.
Unfair, and thank God for that. Because I am the prodigal. I am the worker who showed up late.
As I write this post, another song loops in my head:
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.
I’d like to think I now see grace on a little deeper level.
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Really good post. Such great insight. Loved the ending “I am the prodigal. I am the one who showed up late.” (And you can include me in that.) Brings to mind the words of Job regarding what he saw of himself when in the light of God “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees thee. Wherefore I abhore myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5,6) When we realize the gap between ourselves and God’s righteousness we realize our need for grace. Paul highlights the blindness people have in Romans 10:1-3 “for they being ignorant of God’s righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” Turning to Christ, submitting ourselves to the “righteousness of God” is God’s gift to us, His grace. Great post!!
Thank you, Winston. Isn’t it interesting how scripture moves us from head to heart. Then layer by layer guides us to humility—and His grace. God bless you!
Carole, thanks for sharing this post. As the discussion proceeded, I appreciated how certain words connected with others as the layers of God’s Word are peeled back. Great post!
Isn’t it interesting how we can read and hear scripture, then one day, Pow! Here’s to the layered journey.
Great post, Carole! I’ve been thinking about grace a lot lately, especially as I sit in on one of my church’s racial reconciliation small groups. Grace can be such a tall order to give, but receiving it is life-giving. I keep reminding myself of that!
I applaud you for doing the hard work, Vonetta. Grace takes my breath away. Every single time.