Sometimes our words betray us. In a meeting recently, I heard someone speak in favor of a man who had come before that group seeking membership. It was rough going as there were some legitimate issues at stake. What this person said, though, took me far beyond the immediate circumstances of the person in question.
â€œHe deserves some grace on this matter,â€ she said sincerely. Her intent, I knew in an instant, was to persuade those opposing her on this particular issue to reconsider. â€œGraceâ€ is an important word in Christian circles, and was used with that in mind. The problem was it was used incorrectly; and the incorrect use of a word like â€œgraceâ€ signifies some serious theological misperceptions.
Grace indeed, cannot be deserved. By definition grace is unmerited favor. If something is unmerited it is not and cannot be deserved or earned. If we could earn grace, it would no longer be grace. It could still be love or mercy or patience or lenience, but it would no longer be grace.
Christians say we believe that Godâ€™s grace means that He accepts us and welcomes us into his presence, into a relationship with Him, in spite of, not because of, anything we have done. We are invited to lay our sins and brokenness and failures aside, even give them to God. Grace gives us the ability to do so; it is not something we receive because we have taken care of our own problems.
Oddly, I am quite sure the person who said this would agree with me. What was said, though, conveys that the understanding of the reality of grace has not sunk as deep as it could. Many of us have the same difficulty; our heads know we donâ€™t earn our way to God, but our hearts have not fully realized what this means.
You donâ€™t and canâ€™t earn grace. Thank God we donâ€™t have to!