Grace is a word not heard all that often nowadays. I wonder if many of us ever use it in our conversations, other than perhaps to describe the movements of a dancer of a swan. The word ‘grace’ seems to have dropped out of use.
It’s not only the word that has virtually disappeared, the concept is foreign to us, and we are the worse for it.
We live in a graceless society full of individuals who insist on their rights and who scream for justice when slights (real or imagined) come their way. An almost universal response to injury or calamity is to apportion blame and demand payback. It’s a simple yet often cruel equation: A deed once done cannot be taken back. There is a price to be exacted; in money, shame or blood. People are pilloried in the media and accusers line up to throw stones; all in the name of justice. The possibility that the guilty one may deeply regret his or her actions and want to make amends is irrelevant to the ugly posse that pursues and then surrounds the wrongdoer with pointing fingers or worse.
How sad for us all.
We are the losers when ‘grace’ and its close relative ‘forgiveness’ are lost.
When we live without grace, we cut ourselves off from healing, from growing, and from living life the way we were made to live it. We remain trapped in a descending cycle of accusations and retribution that ultimately destroys us all: victims; perpetrators; the innocent; and the guilty.
Although grace is not an exclusively Christian concept it is part and parcel of the gift God has for each of us. John Newton, the reformed slave trader, expressed this so powerfully three centuries ago in his hymn that still resonates deeply within us:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Grace is both a gift that we receive and a gift we can give. We receive grace when a person who has every right to exact payment for a wrong we have done them instead forgives us and releases us from our guilt and shame. We give grace to others when we show them they matter more to us than their hurtful actions do. Grace is a wonderful thing. With it, all things are possible. The outcast returns to the fold, the sinner is embraced and repents, relationships are healed and nurtured, lives are transformed. Without it we are left with an unbending calculus of retribution that builds nothing except resentment and nurtures nothing except hopelessness.
Graceful people know these things and live accordingly. Graceless people don’t know what they are missing.
How tragic for us all.
Grace is a gift we receive from our God. We in turn are then free to let go of our need for payback and our need for vengeful justice when we are wronged. In doing so we are freed in a wonderful way to live life in its fullness. Grace releases both the perpetrator and the victim from their chains.
Thank God for giving us the gift of grace. Let’s not pass up that gift. Let’s allow grace to flow through our world. No one will be the loser.