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Minister’s website article, September 2019

What is grace? The bible mentions grace a lot: Jesus is ‘full of grace and truth… From his fulness we have received grace upon grace… Grace and truth came through Jesus,’ etc. One definition says ‘Grace is the active expression of God’s love.' God’s love is the root; grace is the flowering of this love, and good things that come are the fruit.

Such a love is difficult to understand. So Jesus spoke of God being like a loving parent who wants us to receive his love like little children. Why do most parents love their babies? Because it’s THEIR’S. God is like this. We are God’s children, so we are loved. In a good home, a child doesn’t earn her parents’ love; they are loved first. So, grace is in our existence, in opportunities to appreciate this world and the goodness around us - see the sunset, smell the flowers. There is grace in things God gives, like beauty, breath, love.

Sometimes grace is surprising, like when children find unexpected presents for no reason or receive extra hugs at times of failure. God surprises us with undeserved goodness and strength when all seems lost.

There is grace in the tougher things, like when parents allow their children to learn through their mistakes. When our children were smaller, our eldest decided to test how thick the ice was on a pond, by walking over it. He got a boot-full of freezing water, and learned from that. Sometimes God lets us do stupid things, to help us learn. That’s grace.

Did your children ever want to do something to please you? Perhaps they tried to do the cleaning. You responded with tenderness - not to the great cleaning, but to the love behind it. The gift may be useless, but that doesn't matter. The intention makes you respond with love. It's like that between God and us. Our desire counts more than success or failure. So when we try to pray and can’t, or try to love and fail, God still touches us tenderly.

Of course, parents can be manipulated; children learn what buttons to press to make us feel guilty or generous. But you can't do that with God. God knows our thoughts and intentions. We can’t hide anything. God’s love pervades us. That is grace.

God’s love is also constant. Our love goes up and down, depending on how tired we are, frustrated, angry. Even at the best times, our love is tainted. We can feel possessive, jealous or angry. We want our children to make good impressions so that we look good. We want them to live out our fantasies, meet our needs, provide us with a sense of worth.

That’s not God. God loves no matter what. This doesn't mean God ignores our behaviour. The consequences are real, and can be horrible, and we are responsible. The freedom God gives us means God’s love and power are always with us; but also means there is no escape from our choices.

God’s love remains the same. God is constantly open to us. He is joyful when we are joyful and when we bring joy to others. God hurts when we hurt and when we hurt others. In the root of love, God is changeless.

There may be times when we don’t want to appreciate grace. Perhaps God hasn’t acted like we wanted him to. But, God is never indifferent, never falls out of love with us, never pouts or gets insulted, is never distracted. 

Finally, grace comes to us in community. As we try to be church, try to help, support, love and care for each other, so grace comes through Jesus, the one who shows us the heart of God. We are drawn together, and become communities of faith. If you are seeking the grace of God, it’s a good place to start.

 

Every blessing

Duncan

 

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