Grace: it is one of the favorite words of the Christian. It brings comfort, joy, security, hope, and an affirmation of love to the person who rests in it. Though it is an important word in the Christian faith, what does it mean? and what does it mean for us today?
To give you one of the textbook Christian definitions, grace is “God bestowing upon us something that we do not deserve.” This definition is usually distinguished from its counterpart, mercy, which is “God withholding from us something that we deserve.” These definitions are, for the most part, correct (although grace and mercy should not be pit against each other as opposites, but as harmonious realities).
I would like to take the definition of grace a tad bit further, if I may. The definition above does not provide any examples, any distinctions, about what God grants. Some might suggest that the very thing that God grants is grace. However, I wonder if grace is something deeper than that.
And so I propose that grace is actually God’s love. Grace is simply an outpouring of God’s love upon us, his beloved creation. It is an overflow of the love that has eternally been present between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And this takes multiple forms, namely as “common grace” and “special grace”.
Common Grace: This is grace that is very broad and general. It is grace that is experienced by all people in all places at all times. It is the love that God shows to people, just because he is good. Common grace can be anything: from a sunrise to a starlit night, from the air that we breathe to a lover’s kiss, from a baby’s giggling joy to an intricate orchestral piece. All of this is grace because God has given it to us out of his love, regardless of their standing before him.
Special (Saving) Grace: This grace is a bit trickier to describe because it carries so much historical-theological baggage. But, those debates aside, special grace is grace that God bestows on persons for salvation. When a person is “saved”, this is the grace that God gives to a person so that they may spend eternity in constant communion with him, basking in the warmth of his love.
The phrase, “all is grace”, applies here. As you can see, these two graces cover all of the bases, showing us that God’s love is constantly surrounding us, whether you believe in him or not. God is constantly loving on us simply by granting us the air that we breathe. This is the result of God’s most basic characteristic, that he is love.
Next Post: H is for Hamartiology