Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
How many times have you heard or said a phrase like “have a heart,” “give me a break,” or “cut me some slack”?
There are several others, so please feel free to add your favorites to the conversation. I would submit those phrases are such a common part of our shared experience, you may have to go way back in memory to find the first time you heard or said them.
There is certainly nothing wrong with those phrases, except perhaps if they’re used in the context of a bad attitude. But I will need to reserve another time for bad attitudes. The point I am interested in is to explore the idea that these phrases represent a sort of natural desire for a spiritual concept called grace.
It could be argued that as part of our most basic human nature, we can accept, even enjoy, undeserved kindness. But we are instantly enraged by undeserved cruelty or sometimes even a slight. We often like people who overlook our faults, and regardless of our evolutionary point of view, are quick to remind the people around us “we are only human.”
For the most part, we are fairly accustomed to the kind of sound-byte campaigns that attempt to provide the idea of grace without a religious context. While I do not want to diminish any of these organizations, when you try to put together the ideas of these dot orgs like “pay if forward” “ give it back” and “pass it along,” the message may become confusing. Just what am I supposed to do with it; pass, give or pay it, and for that matter, what exactly is it?
While I understand the word grace has more than one definition — it could be a prayer before a meal or a woman’s name — I am not talking about them. I would like to narrow my definition to a spiritual concept that I learned a number of years ago. While not a direct quote, it is certainly biblically based.
Grace is the unmerited love and favor of a merciful God. I know the definition misses a couple of potential aspects of a purely theological definition, including human kindness, but I like it and most importantly it is easy to apply. Unless we are able to apply spiritual principals to our own situation, our own lives, they simply become religious noise that can parroted without purpose.
Paul described such words spoken without love as “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” when writing to the church at Corinth. We begin with the premise that Grace is undeserved; it is not owed and cannot be earned. Grace is based in the love of God because He understands us and by extension our weakness and loves us anyway.
Even in human love, we are often reminded that we are loved in spite of our flaws rather than because of attributes. It is the same with favor, even in personal relationships. When we seek a favor, it means we actually have not earned or can reasonably expect the “favor” we are requesting. I will quickly summarize the importance of Grace with a brief words from John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (NIV).
Upton is pastor of Tooele’s First Assembly of God Church.