Grace, Up Close and Personal

"Grace is the collision on the way back home with the ams of a Father, who won't let go." 
- Jonathan Helser, "Abba"

“The sufficiency of my merit is to know that my merit is not sufficient.”
—St Augustine

(picture: Charlie Mackesy, 'Prodigal Daughter')

Did we get into God’s kingdom by virtue of our own good works or merely through Jesus? The extent to which we understand our part in this process, I believe, determines the extent to which we will extend grace and mercy, both to ourselves and to those stuck in sin. The more we credit ourselves with inherent goodness, the less grace and mercy has a role to play!

But the degree to which we become uninhibited receptors of God’s grace is the degree to which we can and will extend that grace to others.

Pope Francis said, “The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.” In other words, when God looks at a person, He first sees someone whom He loves and wants unconditionally, before He is remotely concerned with their sin. Through the cross of Calvary God endorses, loves and invites every one of His children to heaven, before tripping over their sin, however vile it may be.

But even this does not adequately capture Francis’ deeper insight – the priority of the person. This personalism with which God deals with us is one of the most radical aspects of the Christian faith. In every way that matters to God, human beings are completely equal and completely loved. They can’t be reduced to ethical object lessons. Their dignity runs deeper than their failures. They matter more than any cause. They are the cause.

Put bluntly, to quote The Prodigal, “When you turn home, the Father kisses you through the pig crap before you shower!”

Grace is the empowering presence of God to do what only He can do. Grace doesn’t excuse sin – it empowers righteousness. Grace is unmerited favour. Let’s ask ourselves this question:

“How much unmerited favour can I afford to pay out today? How deep are my reserves?”

If we feel low on grace, we need only to return to the Source and ask to be refilled.

This article is an extract from 

God Hunger: Meditations from a life of longing


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