A little over a year ago I read a book by Phillip Yancey entitled What’s So Amazing About Grace? This book changed and reshaped how I view and partake in interactions with others. In this book, Yancey discusses the idea of grace, its role in our world today and “why only Christians can and must reveal the grace the world is searching for.”
As children we are taught many valuable lessons, from sharing and honesty, to trust and forgiveness. How often did our parents address the concept of grace? Even now, do we really understand what grace means? The first definitions of grace that appear in the dictionary refer to beauty and elegance—“elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action”, “a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment.” Upon searching further I found another definition, “an allowance of time after a debt that a bill has become payable granted to the debtor before suit can be brought against him or her or a penalty applied.” Upon first glance I think about a grace period in regards to banking. However, upon further review this reminds me of the gospel message. Who knew Webster held the gospel message? The allowance of time is our life. The debt in this definition is our sin. The penalty is Hell. However, the best part about this is that our debt has been paid by someone else. Our debt has been paid by Jesus Christ. We simply have to accept him as our savior. This is the ultimate example of grace.
Grace in Everyday Life
How does this play out on a daily basis? What does this allowance between a debt and debtor look like? Allow me to give you a very basic but real and daily example. When you are driving and someone cuts you off, you may feel as if that individual is in debt to you. This may sound silly, and it is, but you feel as if that space on the road was yours and they have stolen it from you. So, in return you can try to gain back what you feel is yours and tailgate them, honk at them, think negative things about them, or you can choose to have grace and give them what you feel belongs to you.
Now expand this example to every other aspect of your life. How many times have you felt slighted by another? How did you react in the situation? Are you able to put a smile on and allow it? After all, as Christians we must be the first line of grace in a world desperately needing grace. Many in the general public are afraid to enter a church due to a fear of being judged and persecuted. This fear is legitimate. For years, new church goers have felt out of place when walking into a church and not knowing anyone while accepting sideways glances over hushed tones from the members of the church. This is a place that the visitors have come to for help and guidance whether they admit it or not, and they are less than welcomed. When a new face enters a church it should be the congregation’s duty to make this person feel welcomed and celebrated. After all, when you have guests into your own home isn’t this the welcome that they receive?
Why a Lack of Grace?
So why is there such a lack of grace within our community? I believe one reason is our pride. Our pride ruins our ability to give and receive grace. It is our pride that causes us to feel superior to others and desires to maintain a certain persona. Too often the act of grace is seen as being a push over. For example, you are eating in a restaurant, the waiter accidentally spills a glass of water on you. You are furious inside because now you will be wet and cold for the rest of your evening. Instead of yelling at the waiter, you accept his apology, give him a smile and go about drying yourself off. To many this is a sign of being a push over. After all, this man ruined your evening. You have the “right” to yell and scream and demand a free meal or else you are giving them a scathing review on Yelp, some might think. Or maybe you are not mad at all, more so embarrassed. You are embarrassed that you have to wear a wet shirt for the rest of the evening so you redirect your embarrassment as anger at the waiter. Either way, this is your opportunity to show grace to an individual who may need it.
This leads me to another reason for a lack of grace within the community: A lack of empathy. Anymore I fear that people are too busy and too caught up in their own worlds to think about what may be happening in someone else’s. Think about the previous example: What if that waiter spilled the glass because he is trembling from finding out the week before that his mother has stage 4 breast cancer and the idea is still heavy on his mind. Or maybe he is stressed about an exam he has the next day, but he could not get out of the late evening shift that he is currently working so he now has to study all evening, causing him to be more nervous. As Christians I believe we need to slow down in our daily lives and be more observant and compassionate toward others. So many individuals pray for a situation where they can step in and have a positive effect on another individual’s life. Have you slowed down to see if there is someone in your life currently that you could show some grace toward?
Grace is a tricky thing. It is easy as an idea, yet hard as an action, especially in the fast-paced lives we lead. As you move forward throughout your day today make a conscious decision to slow down. How can you show grace to someone? This doesn’t have to be grace that is commended or even realized. After all, God knows the intentions of our heart and recognizes our ability to accept and deny opportunities to show grace daily.
Finally, Yancey wraps up his writings with a simple question, “What does a Grace-Full Christian look like?” I pose the same question to you. What does a Christian, full of grace, look like to you? How can you become more of a grace-filled Christian?