Defining Grace

God exists outside of time, the theologians tell us. God created time as an artist chooses a medium to work with, and is unbound by it. God sees the future and the past in a kind of eternal present. If right about this property of God, the theologians have helped explain Philip Yanceyhow God can possibly call “beloved” a person as inconstant, fickle, and temperamental as I am. When God looks upon my life graph, he sees not jagged swerves toward good and bad but rather a steady line of good: the goodness of God’s Son captured in a moment of time and applied for all eternity.

I grew up with the image of a mathematical God who weighed my good and bad deeds on a set of scales and always found me wanting. Somehow I missed the God of the Gospels, a God of mercy and generosity who keeps finding ways to shatter the relentless laws of ungrace. God tears up the mathematical tables and introduces the new math of grace, the most surprising, twisting, unexpected-ending word in the English language.

Grace makes its appearance in so many forms that I have trouble defining it. I am ready, though, to attempt something like a definition of grace in relation to God. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more—no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less—no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.

Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, “You must be very close to God.” The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles, “Yes, he’s very fond of me.”
~ Philip Yancey in What’s So Amazing About Grace?, p. 69-70


© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.


Filed under God, Grace, Jesus, Philip Yancey, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

2 responses to “Defining Grace

  1. allskyedout

    Thank you for this message.

    Dana Guidera

    Author of Seven Poems from Life

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