What Is The Definition of Grace?

dearaudre asked:

What would you say the christian definition of grace is?

Hey my friend: the technical Christian definition of grace is “unmerited favor, an undeserved gift that outweighs its own need.”

But I’ve never known grace to simply be boxed inside doctrinal boundaries. The second it becomes abstract, it tends to be enabling and pampering and a sugarcoated excuse to abuse the word “struggle.”  Grace is way too costly to be thrown around like cheap lingerie, and if it does not motivate you, then it’s not real grace.

True grace is love that costs everything.  It is sacrificial.  For God to show us grace, it cost Him the life of His very son.

Let’s consider the implications of this.  You create a race of sentient human beings who you’ve given paradise, and they give you the middle finger and begin to kill each other for fame and glory and pieces of green paper, and you keep sending other little beings to tell them about True Life, but they kill all those beings too.  So you become one of your toy-creations by limiting your infinite power and taking on all their weaknesses and only asking for them to believe you’re real, and they torture you and string you up and stab you with jagged metal spikes in your most tender flesh-covered places (which you willingly took on), and there under a sunless sky you still offer forgiveness and love for everyone because this is the best and only way to love them.  And to validate your claims, you come back to life from the grave and show yourself to hundreds of people and remind them of their real purpose, and even after all that, two-thirds of the world abuses your name for the worst of atrocities and the one-third who believes in you still chase after mindless powerless images or lies or approximations of the real thing.  And you still love them.

You see, romantic love is easy.  It lasts as long as the feelings last.  Maybe we have a good temperament so we’re patient and laidback.  Maybe your friends are all pretty cool and stable and rich and they’re not needy, so you like being with them.  Maybe you were genetically predisposed to being generous and truthful and reliable, so everyone around you likes you too.

But marriages that last fifty years take sweat, blood, heart.  Friendships that encounter flaws take a supernaturally forgiving power that is not inherent to our self-preservation.  Raising children requires you to stay home when you’d rather be out clubbing and chugging.  Serving the homeless and ex-convicts and orphans and the emotionally unstable will demand all your life.  Endorsing justice in the world takes more than a blog post or pink ribbons or an X on your hand.  Love is not love unless it costs you something, and grace is the love that costs you everything.

True grace is a one-way love that persists beyond your own comfort and safety.  It will certainly require your very soul.  But the way of true grace, while costing your life, is the only way that gives you true life, and therefore, it’s the only real joy.  God did not begrudgingly give over His Son, but Jesus willingly followed His Father’s will for the joy set before him (John 10:17-18, Hebrews 12:2).

True grace is less doctrine and more of a story.  It is God loving His creation over and over again, regardless of their same mistakes, rebellion, wretchedness, and disunity.  It is welcoming the prodigal, the cheater, the liar, the thief back home — all over again.  But the one who understands this costly grace will be melted and tenderized by such love, because it is impossible to see the story of the Cross and to remain the same.

True grace is our rest and resolve.  It’s to know that our desperation for validation, approval, and significance is already found in all that God has done for us.  It’s work from God’s approval and not for.  We can rest.  We can quit playing these games of achievement and status and the Olympics and American Idol and Viagra.  We can quit squeezing expectations from others which we could only receive from God.  We can quit living for ourselves under the weight of a self-absorbed egotistical tyranny.  We can quit trying to pay off the gap between who-we-want-to-be and who-we-really-are.  Yet — grace also motivates us into the true versions of ourselves.  It is the motivation of no-motivation, because we are not trying to “get better” for the sake of improvement, but rather we become better by being loved for the sake of our own essence.  We are motivated by beauty rather than practicality or function, because God loves us just-because.

And we can be gracious, not perfectly: but with passion, because God gave us grace first.  We can because He did.

— J.S.

4 thoughts on “What Is The Definition of Grace?

  1. Lots of food for thought here, as well as for the soul. It seems so hard for us to get a handle on something that’s free and just accept it. A person so soon flips into “earning” rather than just accepting it.
    “Unmerited Grace” doesn’t disqualify or nullify obedience, but for myself the cart keeps wanting to roll on ahead of the horse. I think it has to do with really owning up to the “unmerited” part.


  2. Grace, I believe, is a verb as in the sense “mystery” is a verb defining an action taking place by something unknown. Grace is the mystery of the power of God within us.


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