Grace

When self-isolating began I joined a Facebook group called “the self-isolating bird club”. It has become a big group and has members who have been bird watching for a long time and those who are relatively new to it. There have been times when someone has posted a picture of a bird and asked for an identification. It may be a common bird but we all have to start somewhere and we all have to learn. In some posts bird watching terms have been used that not everyone understands and yet if someone asks the reactions can be quite condescending, cruel and rude.

I remember trying to explain to Colin that a black-headed gull actually has a brown head, a female blackbird is brown, long eared owls don’t really have long ears, and common gulls are actually rare.

At times Colin uses a technical computer term that I have no idea about and have to stop him from continuing to tell me what he is talking about.

In the Christian church we talk about grace and in the morning prayers which I share from Malcolm Duncan, pastor of a church in Belfast, he regularly speaks of Grace. But what is it, what does it mean?

It is easy for those of us who have been in church for a long time to use words such as grace knowing what we mean, even if it isn’t really clear in our mind and we would struggle to articulate and answer if we were asked to explain what grace is.

When we talk to people who are not from church and have no church background do we assume that they will understand our language? I have been picked up over the last week on my use of the word grace. What does it mean? What is it about?

As a child I was taught that grace meant God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. If asked in “Sunday School” I would state what I had been taught. That didn’t mean I understood, I didn’t but I could give a definition if asked.

So, what is grace? One definition I came across said “Grace is the love of God shown to the unlovely and the peace of God shown to the restless. It is giving to us what we don’t deserve.

We live in a world where we people talk of earning, deserving and merit. All of these are judged in some way. People try to earn their way to reward, we talk of not deserving when relating to bad things happening and we live in a competitive world where peoples’ greatest desire is to succeed.

Grace is mercy not merit. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve and not getting what you do. Because Jesus died on the cross for all of us, if we accept him we get life eternal, which we don’t work at or deserve.

While everyone desperately needs it, grace is not about us. Grace is about God: His freely given initiative and extravagant demonstrations of his love for us. In grace, God gives Himself for us out of love.

Jane