High River United Church of High River, Alberta


What is Grace? Can we really offer it?

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What is grace? That’s not a word that is used much in our society. We might use “graceful,” meaning someone who moves gently, with a fluid, pleasing elegance. But “grace” – now that is a church word. So what do we mean by it?


Grace is one of the most profound words in the Christian vocabulary. What it means is to freely offer unconditional love. Unconditional! No strings attached! Nothing demanded! Nothing expected! No thought of repayment! Unearned, unexpected, unmerited! Doesn’t matter what the person on the receiving end has done, what their attitude is like, or how they respond. Freely offered unconditional love = Grace!


Grace. We begin by talking of God’s grace – that is the free gift of unconditional love that God offers to each and every human being. It is one of the most astounding things we say about God, the almighty, the creator of the universe.


Grace is also something that we can offer to each other as human beings. In fact, as parents and grandparents and caregivers to children, grace is what we must offer to children, so that they can mature and develop into compassionate, caring human beings who journey toward their full potential.


But unconditional love is one of the hardest things for human beings to offer to other human beings, even the littlest ones, the children and youth in our midst. You know how we most always say that babies are cute – they are made that way, with the proportions and characteristics that draw us to see them as cute and cuddly and something we want to take care of, unconditionally! Otherwise, why would we put up with smelly diapers, long nights without sleep, hours of crying, etc.? Even the cuteness factor is put to the test!


Yet, unconditional love is what any human being needs, young or old, to flourish. It is hard, though, to offer grace, to offer unconditional love, when the person to whom we are offering it is grumpy or yelling at us, or has hurt us in some way, or is doing something that we would never choose for them. It is so easy to start setting conditions for love – if someone is dressed the right way, or speaking the right way, or doing something that pleases me, then it is easy to love them. But that is not grace! Grace-filled love is always unconditional, unmerited and freely given. It doesn’t judge another person’s faith, language, ability or disability, skin colour, sexual orientation or gender orientation.


In addition, grace or unconditional love can not be asked for or demanded. “You must love me as I am!” doesn’t work. The minute it is asked for, any love offered no longer fulfills the need of the person asking. If a child has to say, “Give me a hug, mommy!”, then that hug won’t feel as fulfilling to them as a hug that the parent gives to them without being asked.


As adults caring for children, we need to offer the love, the hugs, the grace, before a child asks it of us. We need to let our children know that they have an unconditional invitation to exist in our presence, that we are delighted that they exist, just as they are.


Unconditional love is hard – for human beings. It is so much easier to love someone who fits our expectations, our idea of what good is, our idea of how one should act, dress, speak, eat and move through life. But that is not grace. That is not unconditional love.


In scripture, we are told that Jesus constantly interacted with and offered loving care to those who were cast out of society – lepers, tax-collectors, prostitutes and others who didn’t fit with the norms and expectations at the time. Jesus taught, “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you!” in the midst of the oppression of the Roman Empire. Jesus instructed, “Welcome the stranger; show hospitality to them.”


Sometimes it is the stranger or the enemy that requires grace from us. Sometimes it is our own children or grandchildren. Sometimes it is very hard to find that grace within ourselves, to love without judgement, to care without thought of repayment or reward.


But we offer grace, we love unconditionally, because, as it says in 1 John 4:19, “We love because God first loved us.”   We may have to work at loving unconditionally. We may have to develop the gift of grace within ourselves. But we do so because we know that God loves us unconditionally. God’s grace is abundant and sufficient for each and every one of us.


People keep trying to make God the judge, the one who punishes or sends people to hell if they don’t believe as we believe – but that is not God! Jesus loved unconditionally to show us that God loves unconditionally, and then asked us to do the same.


May you know God’s grace today! May you offer God’s grace today!

It is the greatest gift of all.

November 1, 2018                                ©Susan Lukey 2018



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