This week I had quite a few questions about grace. They were all similar, so I’ll just boil it down to one question:
“What does grace look like in action?”
Well, let’s first look at some of the definitions I have found for grace:
- Undeserved acceptance and love received from another.
- Old Testament understanding of the verb grace (chanan) means “be favorable and merciful.”
- New Testament is a little more complicated. The New Testament word for “grace” is the Greek charis. It is used approximately 150 times in the NT. The word had a long history in secular Greek before NT times. Originally it referred to something delightful or beautiful in a person, thing, or act which brought pleasure to others. From this came the idea of a favor or gift that brought pleasure to another. From the recipient’s standpoint it came to mean “thanks” or “thankfulness.” It came to be used in an ethical sense of a favor done freely without any claim or expectation of something in return. When the OT was translated into Greek, charis was used to translate the Hebrew chen (the noun form of chanan). In the biblical Greek, the word came to be associated with an objective relation of undeserved favor given by a superior to an inferior. This objective relation of undeserved favor given by God to man forms the background of the distinctively Christian meaning of grace in the New Testament.
- Webster’s 1828 dictionary says about the verb form of grace, “GRACE, verb transitive To adorn; to decorate; to embellish and dignify. To dignify or raise by act of favor; to honor. He might at his pleasure grace or disgrace whom he would in court. 2. To favor; to honor. 3. To supply with heavenly grace.
- Today, we define grace as “unmerited favor”.
We see many examples of grace in action throughout the Bible. The greatest example of biblical grace is when Jesus goes to the cross and takes on the sins of the world. By this single action, Jesus gives us the opportunity to have forgiveness and eternal life with Him. We could not have this kind of relationship by our own actions and thus we need Jesus to show us “unmerited favor” by His actions.
We also see an example of grace in the book of Exodus when God describes His character and His actions:
5 The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him there, and proclaimed His name Yahweh. 6 Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, 7 maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation. 8 Moses immediately bowed down to the ground and worshiped. 9 Then he said, “My Lord, if I have indeed found favor in Your sight, my Lord, please go with us. Even though this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wrongdoing and sin, and accept us as Your own possession.” (Exodus 34:5-9).
God’s actions are full of grace and it begs the question, “do we give this kind of grace to people in our lives?”
This is a hard thing for us at times. We tend to think that grace is just letting people do what they want, when they want. We tend to think grace is not holding them to a standard that God wants in all of our lives.
This is not what grace is supposed to look like. To me, grace is coming up beside someone and in love showing them how to walk in what God knows is in their best interest. Grace in action is a team sport, if you will, each one of us supporting our brothers and sisters in Christ.
But with that being said, it leads me to another question about having grace for ourselves: “if grace is a team thing, then how can we show ourselves grace?”
I see a lot of people around who can give grace to others but when it comes to themselves they beat themselves up. They become their worst critic and judge. In my past, when I looked in the mirror, I was the one who would never give myself grace.
As I have walked with my Rabbi Jesus, I have come to some conclusions. I think the issue is that when we try to do things on our own, we are not giving God a chance to be on our team. We’re not allowing Him to help us give grace to ourselves or allow God to teach us how to give grace. We allow the accuser (Satan) to have power over our lives.
Once this begins to happen, we start falling away from what God is teaching us. We need Him and without Him we are lost and a wreck. By not allowing ourselves to be on God’s team, we don’t accept the grace that was bought with such a high price by His son Jesus Christ.
I pray that this helps us better understand grace. I pray that it will lead us to give more grace to others and to give grace to ourselves. This is best described in a passage from the book of Titus:
11 For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, 12 instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works (Titus 2:11-14).
In His Grip,