by A. Maeve McDonald
The word, grace, pops up quite a lot in church these days, doesn't it? We often hear about the need to act with grace toward others to help foster healthy relationships. And, it's become common to say things like: "I need to show [insert name here] some grace." Perhaps one of the more comical usages of the term, grace, would be "EGR"—an abbreviation for extra grace required, which is apparently Christianese for dealing with "a person in church whose ongoing spiritual and emotional needs frustrate the efforts of others to interact with that person or minister to that person." I'm pretty sure a lot of us can relate!
Comical as this may be, it actually points up a real problem: when we use the term, grace, we often do so in a way that isn't really consistent with how it's used in Scripture. It's a good thing that we're talking about grace more often. But, the things is, we've developed a tendency to over-use the term without giving much thought to what it actually means. And as a result, we end up trivializing it and obscuring the powerful meaning behind it. In other words, grace doesn't seem so amazing anymore.
Having used the term quite liberally over the years myself, I've recently been pondering, what does it really mean to "show grace" to someone, anyway?
Interestingly, in the New Testament, the word grace—charis—is not as often used to describe the way in which we should treat others as it is mentioned in direct relation to the gospel. In other words, grace isn't presented nearly so much as something we do, as something we have received. This is because grace isn't self-generated, it is God-given. And so, grace itself points us to the gospel of Christ because He is its source and His work on the Cross is its purest expression. In fact, the Apostle Paul used the terms "gospel" and "grace" interchangeably (Gal 1:6). And he made it clear that grace is at the very heart of the gospel when he wrote, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph 2:8-9).
But worryingly, it seems that, of late, the idea of "showing grace" is being applied in a way that actually marginalizes the gospel message. Over time, grace has taken on new meaning among Christians, diverging from Scripture, to describe a purely human action or behavior rather than an unmerited gift from God…
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