Grace is a beautiful word. It’s a word often used at Easter to describe what God has done for us. It’s a life-giving, life-enhancing word. To be described as someone who us graceful or gracious is a compliment indeed. So what is grace?
Grace is love. God’s love. A particular kind of love. It’s helpfully expressed in John Newton’s famous hymn, Amazing Grace. Written nearly 250 years ago, Amazing Grace continues to be one of the best-known and well-sung hymns. Its describes a love that saves and forgives. That brings the lost home and helps the blind see. That helps us through dangers and keeps us safe. That stirs up praise and takes us to heaven.
As a boy I would hear this grace word sometimes used in church. I knew it had something to do with love and with Jesus, but I wasn’t quite sure what or how. Then I heard it summarised as God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. I found that helpful. It pointed me to the person of Jesus and what he did on the cross. It spoke of exchange – how he paid a debt for me. How he took my sin and shame, and paid the bill that was in my name which I couldn’t pay. It helped me hand my life over to him and know what he’d done for me.
Since then I’ve discovered that God’s grace continues to flow, and that he wants it to overflow from me. The cross of Jesus continues to be the centre of it all. That’s where we see grace most fully and perfectly expressed. Jesus is the well-spring of grace. It all flows from the cross. But of course there was grace before the cross. And there is grace after the cross. Because grace is God’s love. It’s who he is and who he will always be. He is the God of grace.
In my book A-Z of Discipleship, I use three words to describe grace: undeserved, unconditional and unending. I was recently listening to a helpful talk given by the Archbishop of York on grace, and then the next day by three excellent young preachers at The Belfrey, and on both occasions these three words came to mind again: undeserved, unconditional and unending.
Undeserved (Ephesians 2:8-9)
A love that is undeserved is a love that is extremely kind. It’s a beautiful gift! To be undeserved means it can’t be earned. It’s simply given. For some of us, such a gift is hard to receive, especially if we’ve been brought up to believe that you only get what you deserve. But grace is not like that at all. It’s thoroughly undeserved! It was secured in the past – through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and shown to be real by his resurrection.
Unconditional (Romans 3:20-24; 11:6)
A love that’s unconditional is a love that has no strings attached. God is not going to withdraw it. He’s not going to look at my life-performance and change his mind and stop loving me. That’s because it’s not about me. It’s about him. It’s not based on my merits but on his. Because of this, we can know and experience this grace in the present. Right now.
Unending (James 4:6)
A love that’s unending is a love that keeps going. Like a river that keeps flowing, it goes on and on and on. Grace endures. It is bounteous. And it will continue. Into the future. And into eternity.
Such is God’s grace – the amazing love of God! It’s been won by Christ, comes from the Father and is given us by the Holy Spirit. It’s underserved and based on a past event. It’s unconditional and to be experienced in the present. And it’s unending, enduring into the future.
Grace is the kind of love that surely all people need to know, experience and give away (Titus 2:11). This is the kind of perfect love that not only transforms individuals but families, communities and nations. If we can receive this grace and share it with others, the world will be changed.
The world needs grace. I need grace. You need grace. Let’s receive it. Let’s give it. Let’s enjoy it. Let’s proclaim it. It’s the wonderful love of God, seen in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s amazing. It’s amazing grace.