Understanding the Grace of God
word count: 1100 read time: ~3 minutes
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
God’s grace is a difficult concept to fully understand and an even more challenging one to define. I have heard some good definitions of grace like the acronym, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. I’ve heard some good stories that depict God’s grace, like the police officer who doesn’t give the man the ticket he deserves and additionally invites him to the policemen’s ball. But it seems to me that while each definition adds some depth to our understanding of God’s grace, no one definition can sum up God’s grace in a nutshell. So I won’t attempt to accomplish such a feat here, but I will add one more glimpse of grace that may help you better understand this theological concept. Ready? It’s T-ball!
This year I signed up both my sons to play T-ball together. We are the Indians and I am the privileged assistant coach. Last week we had our first game against the Astros. I think we won. I’m pretty sure they did too. You see, everyone wins in T-ball. That’s just how T-ball works. No one is keeping score; no one is counting the number of balls, strikes or outs. Everybody bats. Everyone gets a trip around the bases (one at a time mind you) and everyone gets ice cream when the game is over.
God’s grace is much like T-ball. God’s grace allows everyone to win. It is the grace of God that helps us cut people a break when they make a mistake and give second, third and fourth chances. It’s the grace of God that allows us to not keep score of rights and wrongs whether unintentional or malicious. When the grace of God is operating in our lives, we learn not to judge or condemn others.
Some of the greatest highlights in our first game weren’t the outstanding plays by the infield or the over the fence homeruns (neither took place), but the small, funny incidental acts of children out to have fun. Take Amy* for example. After the last batter on the team hits the ball, everyone on base completes their trip around the bases and comes home. This is the only exception to the one base at a time rule. Amy stood on third base ready for the ball to be hit. Before it was hit I was shouting out to my little Indians, “Remember, this time, run all the way around the bases. Don’t stop on the next base.”
Amy took my words to heart. After the ball was hit, she proceeded to home plate. Then she proceeded to make a second trip around the bases. She ran from home right back to first base, second, third and home plate again. Did I scold her? Did the crowd boo her glory trot? No, we all cheered her on and told her she was doing a great job. In fact, I ran alongside her and encouraged her to keep going.
Such is the grace of God. God sees our mistakes. He knows when we mess up. He doesn’t condemn our innocent errors or imprison us because of our ignorance. He cuts us a break. It’s a break known as grace.
I think we need to be a bit more gracious and forgiving among adults as we are to children like Amy. Sure there are times when we act inappropriately and even sinfully. And there are times when our sin needs to be addressed or we need to address another person’s faults. But too often I think we look to correct each other without first looking to extend grace. We stop Amy on her way to first base and grab her by the arm saying, “Don’t you know any better? Are you trying to show off or something?”
Or take Dylan for example. Dylan is a quiet boy who at times is in his own world. By our second inning, Dylan found his favorite place on the field – second base. It wasn’t the base itself that attracted Dylan, it was the dirt. As the game played on, Dylan sat with his legs crossed behind second base. His glove was off to the side in the grass, left behind for a later time. Dylan was too busy for it now. He was building a tower out of the dirt behind the base. And a pretty darn good one I might add.
The head coach tried to kindly cajole him to enter back into our world and game, but Dylan just wasn’t interested. A piece of art was in the making and he wasn’t about to stop for some silly game. So, we let him play. No one had hit the ball as far as second base yet, so Dylan was pretty safe in the dirt. And he was content. I’m guessing his contentment and solitary, quiet playing would be a parent’s delight when guests were over for dinner. So why not enjoy it in the middle of the second inning?
Giving grace to other people means we allow them to choose their own way. When their way is not hurtful to themselves or others, we sit back and relax. We don’t try to make our son become an all-star when he really aspires to be an artist. We don’t pressure people to meet standards and accolades that are beyond their ability to achieve. We allow each person to steer their own boat.
Now I know there are times to encourage and exhort others to a higher calling in Christ. At times God uses one believer as a coach or mentor to help bring another fellow saint to their next level of spiritual growth. We all need this type of positive encouragement! But if you’re one of those driven-types by nature, you may need to learn how to step back and allow others to play in the dirt for a while.
So, how well are you doing at extending the grace of God to other people? Not so well? Don’t worry. Accept and receive the grace of God for yourself and then give it back to those around you. You’ll be surprised at how liberating and joyful it can be to cut people a break, especially when it seems like they most deserve a strong honk of your horn or a strong word of rebuke for the error in their way.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:2) Amen.
*All names have been changed to protect the children from being teased some day and extending them a bit of grace.
If you enjoyed it, you may also enjoy, my book Born to Grow or one of this article.