God’s grace is yours and it is meant to be shared

I have been thinking about grace a lot recently.

I preached a sermon on the topic a couple of weeks ago. I read a book on the subject of grace. I try each day to find examples of grace in the routines of daily life. I have to admit that I am sort of preoccupied with the entire notion. The reason that grace has suddenly become such a part of my daily prayers and my thinking of late sort of eludes me, but I am guessing that it comes about in no small part because I marvel each and every day at the amazing ways that God’s unconditional love for all people, all creation is manifested.

When I ask people to tell me about grace in their own lives, I find that most often they cannot do that, or they just simply don’t know or understand the concept, and I worry about church people who don’t understand grace. The Christian faith is the only major religion that dares to make God’s love free and unconditional. In Buddhism, one may find a place in the love of God through the eight-fold path, the Hindu faith has the doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant brings one into a relationship with God, and the Muslim code of law achieves that as well, but only Christianity makes God’s love available without any conditions or path. Jesus found grace everywhere, and he was emphatic that it is incumbent upon each of us to share that grace – that love of God – with others.

Grace is Christianity’s best gift to the world. Sadly though, I think many mainline churches present more “ungrace” than grace because they force people to follow rules and rituals, and once one is in line with all that, then you can gain the church’s and, I would venture, God’s approval because you fell into line. Grace cannot be dictated by any church. Grace is extremely personal. Each individual must come to an understanding of God’s grace in their own lives on their own terms. If one would simply stop and look around, grace is everywhere: the sunrise over the Sacandaga, the bounty of the fall harvest, the majestic Adirondacks that rise at our back doors, the little girl who smiles at you and shows you her new doll, the homeless man who is so grateful that you stopped and shared your sandwich with him….everywhere. Each time we recognize all God has given to us or we touch someone else’s life in a positive way, we experience grace.

If by our acceptance of grace in our own lives, we can bring others to understand the notion as well, then we will have fulfilled Jesus’ words to “go and make disciples.” Henri Nouwen, the great spiritualist, writes, “God rejoices. Not because the problems of the world have been solved, not because all human pain and suffering have come to an end, nor because thousands of people have been converted and are now praising Him for his goodness. No, God rejoices because one of his children who was lost has been found.”

This week I urge you to find all the ways that God’s amazing love has impacted your life each day, and then please take the time to help lead another person to see that same amazing grace is available to them as well in their own lives. Pass it on.

The Rev. Jerry Oliver is the pastor of the Mayfield and Northampton United Methodist Churches.

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