Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Positing on Grace

I have been thinking about grace a lot lately.  In fact, I have been meaning to write my thoughts on it about two weeks ago but I allowed other things to consume my time and attention. Naturally, I suppose it's best to start with a definition of what I mean by grace.  I looked at a few definitions but none of them really fit what I am talking about. They are not bad definitions by any means but it also isn't quite what I had in mind. So here is what I've come up with in hopes of simple clarification.

Grace - Unearned, undeserved, and unachievable favor granted to another because of a genuine love held for that other.

I kept the divine out of my definition because I do believe it is possible for someone to show this grace to another; usually it goes hand in hand with mercy but evidence does exist.  However, I am referring specifically to the divine; God's grace in regards to humanity.

Something that has occurred to me lately is that the only religion (that I am aware of) that preaches grace is Christianity.  The rest all teach good works, or some type of deed that has to be accomplished.  Do so many prayers, perform so many good deeds, give so much money and maybe, just -maybe-, it will be enough to get another life, the after-life, the heaven equivalent.  On the other end, Christianity preaches that there isn't a need for good works to reach eternal life, that we are granted this entrance by simply believing that Jesus was who he said he was and allowing him to be the Lord in our life.

Just reading over the previous description makes me feel that it is pretty obvious that this good works mindset can be pretty stressful since there really isn't even any type of guarantee of success, whereas allowing this Jesus power to do all the redeeming required to enter into that heaven is much more freeing.

I realize that previous statement is probably incredibly subjective, but the heart of the question and point remains: Do the work ourselves, or let someone else do it for us?

I'm sure that my readers know by now, but I truly believe there is nothing we can do that will ever be enough to gain the rights to an eternal life.  Just taking a look at the news on any given day and you can see how messed up humanity really is.  We constantly compare ourselves to others to justify our own lifestyle choices.  I can attest that I have had my own thoughts of "Well, at least I don't do [that]"  or "-I- would never," etc.  And if we are honest with ourselves, we've all got things we don't want others to know about because we know we aren't as good as we like to pretend we are.  In short, if we rely on our own power and goodness we fall horribly, horribly short with no hope of success.

But, that's the bad news.

The good news is the message of grace.

I'm sure you've all heard it.  Jesus, also called Christ by many, came to earth living a righteous, perfect, sinless life and acted as the end all solution for humanity so that eternal life becomes attainable.  Jesus does all the work on our behalf and through his intercession we have hope.

That is the true beauty of Grace.  We don't have to stress ourselves out trying and trying to be enough.  It will never happen.  However, God's grace through Jesus makes us enough.  When we come to understand and accept this then we find that we can do and be good because we want to.  Because, we are so changed by the grace that has saved us from a life enslave by worry and hopelessness, that we can't help but share the grace, peace, and hope that we experience.

You see, I believe there is this huge misconception about Christianity.  Many believe it is this huge list of rules and thus you can't have any fun but I find the opposite to be true.  These aren't rules I have to follow.  I -choose- to do so because it is the least I can do for the person who saved me and saves me daily.  What's more it is my pleasure to do so because it benefits not only me but those around me.

After all, Grace, peace and Love is and has always been the message.

Grace and Peace.


Dan Sanders said...

I respect your views tremendously my friend, but wanted to offer a few additional insights for you.

The prophet Muhammad wrote "None amongst you can get into Paradise by virtue of his deeds alone ... not even I, but that Allah should wrap me in his grace and mercy."

In Hinduism grace is viewed as a method of spiritual self-actualization, a method for transcending lifetimes of Karma. In other words, grace given in spite of or instead of works to achieve a higher spiritual goal.

The point I wish to make is that grace is a common theme in many religions, and, with some variation due to specifically different theologies, your definition still works for those as well. As an insider to Christianity, I can certainly understand how you could say that it is the only religious movement that offers true grace, but I doubt you would say so had you grown up Hindu or Muslim, and might even say similar things about these religions.

Just a thought for you to ponder!

Sharon said...

I'm very thankful for that grace. I need it every day.

Austin Ezell said...

Dan, thanks for bringing that up. In all of my own (admittedly limited) studies I've never really come across this. But I also feel that with these examples there is this "appease the gods" mindset or set of conditions that absolutely must be met to earn or achieve that grace.

I suppose you could argue this to be true of Christianity as well, but I've always viewed it as freely given and no additional "appeasement" or set of conditions are really required for that grace because they were already met by Jesus.

Of course, all of that probably does come from a bias of what I grew up with and the subjectivity of my experiences. And it is very possible that I might feel the same way about any other religion had I grown up in different circumstances. I suspect it would be near impossible to be completely objective with a subject that is so important and sensitive for many people. Still, got to start somewhere right? :p

In all seriousness though, thanks for your input. It shows there is still much more for me to learn and sift through.