One of the most perplexing things about living in our age is the concept of grace. I’ll define grace as “a free gift where one is not deserved.” Most often in the Christian context we speak of grace as God’s love in the form of Jesus Christ who gave himself freely so that we would not suffer the consequences of sin. Yet, we have been trained to think of ourselves as wholly autonomous – even within Christianity – and therefore grace becomes an ambiguous concept surrounding an event or a personal need when one fails. But grace is not an event (like the crucifixion), rather grace is a present and active state of being. Grace is more about Easter morning than it is about Good Friday. Grace has more to do with the hope of building and restoring right relationships than it does with correcting an imbalance in the yin/yang of cosmic justice.
So what does this have to do with the original definition: a free gift where one is not deserved? Grace is to us the ability to move beyond ourselves and see the world as God loves it. It is a friendly smile where someone has only known rejection. It is an invitation to explore where someone has been shunned for seeking. It is the willingness to build bridges instead of boundaries and to walk where others fear to go for the sake of being a blessing.
To be grace – to be a free gift where one is not deserved – also means loving those who hate us and praying for our enemies. Autonomy (and its kissing cousins xenophobia, narcissism, racism, sexism and sectarianism) teaches us that we are to care primarily for ourselves and then, if there should be time or resources available, to care for others. However, grace says that in caring for others we will make the world a place where we can live. In being grace we help to bring about the kingdom of which Jesus spoke. In being grace we make known God’s love even when we don’t use “God talk” to do so.
As we remember September 11, 2001 – my heart is stirred to think of the ways in which I am being grace. More accurately, I am being called to consider the ways in which I have not been grace. To be sure, fanaticism is never rational and the motivation of religious fundamentalists will never make sense. But in a connected world – where how we treat one another and how we live, or don’t live, by what we say is judged on the world stage – we must always be aware of the ways in which we are being grace rather than a violation.
May we be grace and love without measure,