The word “grace” has many meanings such as a prayer before a meal, courteousness, or the elegance of a dancer. But the word takes on a totally new meaning when we talk about grace in the context of God’s relationship with humanity. I respectfully submit my definition:
“Grace is the unconditional love of God extended to all men and women. Grace forgives us for the wrongs we commit towards our creator, his creation and one another. Grace includes us in the love relationship which God the Father shares with Jesus Christ his son.”
God is love: and the fact that he loves us is truly amazing, fantastic, mind-blowing, and whatever superlative you can think of.
A definition of “grace” usually contains the expression “unmerited favour”, but it is in God’s nature to have loved us whether it was earned or not. It is amazing that God does love us in-spite of our attitude to him. The word “favour”, meaning approval and kindness, is inadequate to express the full wonder of a God whose love towards us is unconditional, infinite and which brings us to a relationship with him which is complete and not one-sided.
Last night we watched the film, “Amazing Grace”, again. It is about William Wilberforce’s fight to stop the slave trade. In the film, God comes into Wilberforce’s life and he ponders the question, “Should I serve God, or campaign to make a better world”. I love the answer given to him by a woman of the Clapham Sect, “I respectfully suggest you can do both”.
William Wilberforce was encouraged by John Newton, writer of the well-known hymn, Amazing Grace. Newton was the captain of a slave ship who had an encounter with God. In later life he deeply regretted his past acts and was amazed at the grace of God who could love “a wretch like me”. He felt like Paul who started off condemning early Christians before coming face to face with Jesus on the road to Damascus, and later calling himself “the chief of sinners”.
John Newton speaks for the whole of humanity, when he says, “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see”. By the death and resurrection of Jesus the whole cosmos is brought into a right relationship with our Creator. Whether we acknowledge it, or not, it is the amazing grace of God which restores us to his love and we become truly “made in God’s image”.
The hymn has been recorded thousands of time and is popular in secular and religious circles. I only hope that all men, everywhere, will come to experience this amazing grace now, in their everyday lives.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found,
was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear,
the hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead us home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
as long as life endures.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
than when we first begun.