Thursday, September 17, 2009

Some thoughts on grace

10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them — though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10

Our relationship with God is just the opposite of the way our world works; it is based on grace. Intellectually many of us know this but this truth is not to be experienced simply in the mind. We are called to experience the grace of Christ in the depths of our heart. To experience this is to receive grace and realize that grace is a state of being.

What I mean by that is that at the very core of our being is grace. Our very being is a gift. We don’t chose or earn our existence; it is given to us. Our being is an unearned gift from God; there is no quid pro quo. God simply is, therefore we simply are. Without God we would simply cease to exist.

To put it a little more concretely the sun rose this morning and it will set tonight regardless of me or anyone else. Our planet is uniquely set up to sustain life; no human designed the world we live in. The best that our science does is to discover the wonders of the world and see how we collectively are damaging the gift known as Earth.

God sent Jesus into the world without asking. Even though we rejected Christ by crucifying him God still pronounces forgiveness and mercy through Christ. Christ is a gift of grace. Since so much of our world is set up in a performance mode we struggle to realize grace at work in our lives. We live under an illusion that somehow we are the masters of our world and are the ones making things happen. The truth is that control is an illusion; just ask anyone with a chronic illness, job loss or death in the family.

When this illusion is broken we can begin to reopen to the wonder of the world since we are no longer trying to control it. There is a great peace that flows from realizing that God is at work in the world and that he is working in and through us by grace. No longer does the fate of the world rest on our shoulders. We are free to listen and to act with God, rather than in place of God. As we begin to experience the providential flow of God in the world we open more open to grace and to thankfulness.

With open eyes we can see the sun rising and setting as a grace. We see the times with our loved ones as a grace, not something to control or dominate. We regain a sense of rhythm and balance in life. Without a sense of grace we are always the actor, the driver in the drama of our lives and this is exhausting and leads to all kinds of problems. Grace allows us to recover the ability to see beauty and wonder in the world. To live from grace is to live from the heart since it is grace that opened the eyes of our hearts to seeing through the illusion.

Grace brings freedom to truly be. No longer is our being based on someone else’s approval. God in Christ has already said yes to each of us in all aspects of lives. This is so radical that we want to qualify grace with some sort of behavioral check or promise. Grace refuses any sort of conditions because it wouldn’t be grace. Grace allows us to receive love in every area that we have either refused to love ourselves or that others have refused to love us. There is great power in grace and love. That is why there is no need to try to condition it with expectations or certain behaviors; they simply flow from a life marked by grace.

Those who have experienced the depth of grace and love are changed and we can trust the one who gives grace and is grace, Jesus of Nazareth.

Reflection Questions
1. Do you find yourself moving back into performance spirituality?
2. Have you made time to look at all the gifts in the world and give thanks for them?
3. How has grace dropped into your heart?
4. As a recipient of grace how are you learning to be gracious to others?

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