Monday, January 21, 2013

Vocabulary of our Faith: "Grace"

So what is grace? God's unmerited favor. Yeah, I've heard that, too. But what does that mean?

This week, we looked at grace. Not surprisingly, Paul writes about it more than any other author in the bible. As I looked over the occurrences of "grace" in his writings, I decided to focus on Ephesians 2 (excusing for a moment the question of Pauline authorship of Ephesians). There's a wonderful statement in vv 4-5 that sums it up for me:

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—"

I love the use of the appositive phrase "by grace you have been saved" as a restatement of the rest. It's Paul's way of saying that grace is God loving us enough to make us alive together with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses." That's what grace is.

And I found it funny that, of all people, Erwin Lutzer quotes the same verse as he searches for a definition of grace. Watch the short video below. My favorite line is somewhat provocative. Lutzer asks rhetorically, "What do we contribute?" And the only answer is, "Our sin." That gets me thinking.

So what does that mean? I think it means that grace is even bigger than we think it is. Someone in class yesterday admitted that it's hard to think of God doing everything and us contributing nothing. We want to do something. We want to take part in our salvation. Rather than getting eye-deep in the "how-does-salvation-really-work" debate between the Catholic and Protestant traditions, I simply asked our class to allow radical grace to roll around in their heads for a while. What would it mean if grace were really that big? What would our faith look like if we really embraced a notion of God's love that is as full as Ephesians 2 seems to suggest that it is?

Here's the PowerPoint presentation from Sunday's class. Next week we're off for one Sunday, and I'm encouraging our participants to go to the TEDology class instead. But we're back on 2/3 with a look at "blessing."

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