The Grace Mandate

I do a great deal of thinking about Grace. Probably because I have basked in its beauty, felt relief through its comfort, and experienced its power so much in my life. Although at one time I think I could have been a poster child for the Pharisees, knowing all the right things to say and do, through various events in my life I have tasted the sweetness of grace and I have been changed.

I have learned when a person’s behavior appears to be inconsistent with what I know about their life from the outside looking in, then I am mandated to give grace without information. I must be willing to give grace without forcing them to show their soul. It’s all about the mandate: to give grace with or without information.

I have also known absence of grace.  I have felt accusations and judgment from those who don’t know the situation and yet decide to write my story in their minds where it quickly becomes their reality. In the cast of characters I am labeled as either villain or vain. I don’t stand a chance. My inner voice shouts out at the accusers daring them to cast the first stone…and then I remember the grace mandate.

I want to scream against the mandate “It’s not fair! They don’t deserve grace because they don’t give it!” But my screams are met by a God who slowly and kindly reveals that this is what it’s all about. Grace for Pharisees, grace for sinners – no respecter of persons is grace.

Philip Yancey, an author who devoted an entire book to grace says this: “As I studied Jesus’ life, the notion of grace kept hitting me in the face.  All his stories made the wrong person the hero: the prodigal son not the responsible older brother, Lazarus not the rich man, the good Samaritan not the Jewish rabbi.  And I began to see grace as one of the great, often untapped, powers of the universe that God has asked us to set loose.  Human society runs by Ungrace, ranking people, holding them accountable, insisting on reciprocity and fairness.  Grace is, by definition, unfair…”From PhilipYancey.com

And this is truth – Despite being surrounded by Ungrace, we are called to give Grace. It’s the Grace Mandate.

I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly.
― Madeleine L’Engle

11 thoughts on “The Grace Mandate

  1. “Grace for Pharisees, grace for sinners — no respecter of persons is grace.” Yep, pretty much. Have definitely been in that place of not wanting to give grace to someone who didn’t give it to me! I love these musings on grace. (Yes, I’m late to your blog party, but hey, at least the door’s still open, right?? Thanks for letting me crash here.) ~Elizabeth

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  2. Oh how easy it is to be gracious to the gracious, to return a kind word to those who are kind, but it does not shine as it does when against the black stained backdrop of sin. So to be gracious to the cruel, mean spirited or self righteous is a challenge for me to live today, and I want to do just that. How often have I been that self righteous one, that mean spirited person, one who answers sharply. Colossians 4:6 comes to mind. “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

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    1. Exactly the same for me…..and where we are currently living I really struggle because there is an over all “I’m too busy to be polite” attitude and I get incensed…thanks for the reminder of the verse.

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  3. I appreciate your thoughts on grace and love whenever you write about them, dear Marilyn.

    I had a couple of thoughts about grace after reading your blog earlier today. On the one hand, grace is by definition unearned: it’s a force (that doesn’t seem like the right word) we experience that moves us positively to our very foundation because we didn’t /don’t deserve it. From that perspective, grace is not something we give/receive as if it were a commodity, but rather something we rejoice in and find power from just because it exists.

    But grace is also something we can do/give, and it does seem to require a mindset (or soul-set?) of openness, so it can be perceived as a kind of commodity. (Example: the English teacher in Kristof’s column who knew a student was stealing a book from her nook in the library, but instead of shaming him for that, she made sure there was another book for him to steal. Her act of grace could be perceived as a kind of manipulativeness, but who would argue that it was not good/healing/loving?)

    I find that grace itself is such an attractive force that it makes me WANT to be gracious. I like and trust that dynamic energy as much as I like/trust anything. When I’m in a state of grace, I feel the closest to God and my fellow humans. I can see how it would be easy to slip from grace to guilt trip. But richly/ironically, it’s grace that keeps us from needing to fret or pound ourselves about guilt trips, too.

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    1. Amy – yes! I had just commented above that it is so much more difficult to do than to write…! It’s that constant inner “It’s not fair” fight that I have and it can be pretty exhausting.

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