I wandered outside for a quick break last week, and was instantly caught up by the sound and sight of leaves falling like snow in the woods behind our house. The rustling of the breeze in the treetops and the actual sound of dry leaves rustling as they fell was totally mesmerizing; the woods were magically alive! Thinking about the leaves falling, this idea came to mind : All summer long the leaves withstand strong winds, heat, pouring rain – and they mostly stay put. But when fall arrives, down they come with a slight breeze, or just let go for no reason. We don’t make it happen. Something much bigger than us, outside of our control, triggers this letting go of the leaves. The phrase “grace like rain” came into my head as I watched.
That got me thinking about God’s grace. A short definition I’ve heard is: undeserved favor. You also might have heard of something called “common grace”: common because its benefits are experienced by the whole human race, and grace because it is undeserved and sovereignly given by God. Just like the leaves in fall, common grace falls on everyone everywhere, and is initiated by God’s action, not ours. But, I find Dallas Willard’s definition most helpful; he explains grace as being God’s actions toward us. Everything in life is weaved together by God so that, as Acts 17: 27 says, we “might seek after God and perhaps feel our way toward him and find him.” He initiates, we respond.
In fact, the entire Bible is the story of God’s action to redeem His creation, doing whatever it takes to win hearts back to him, to be in relationship the way He intended. God graced the people of Israel with the Law, showing them how to live in unbroken relationship with Himself and each other, but as the story goes on, God’s redeeming grace – love in action – went even further. He gave nothing less than Himself; again, not because of anything we’ve done to deserve this.
Why does this distinction matter? Because God’s redeeming grace, unlike His common grace, asks that we recognize and accept His action towards us in order to live with Him. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (Romans 5:1-2)
“Grace is most needed and best understood in the midst of sin, suffering, and brokenness. We live in a world of earning, deserving, and merit, and these result in judgment. That is why everyone wants and needs grace. Judgment kills. Only grace makes alive.” Justin Holcomb
Always and forever the gift of life that showers down on us by the grace of God.
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