What Is God's Grace?
Dear Rev. Jamison,
What is God's grace, and how does it work?
The final word of your question is the most debatable. Theologians have been arguing about it since the 3rd Century. Paul says grace has nothing to do with works. In his letter to his church at Rome, 11th chapter, 6th verse, he writes: "If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace." Paul reiterated his position when writing to his church in Ephesus. In Ephesians 2:9 he wrote: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God-not because of works, lest any man should boast." Writing in the 3rd Century A.D., Tertullian claimed that we had to do something to earn grace. In the year 410 the fight got nasty, with Augustine (the inventor of original sin) claiming that grace was a gift, no work required, and Pelagius counter-claiming that Tertullian was right. Some compromises were made at the Second Council of Orange in 529, then in the 13th Century, Thomas Aquinas stirred things up again, and in the 1500s, Martin Luther weighed in. Theologians can goofily argue how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or debate whether grace requires something on our part. Do you wonder why they never inquired what Jesus would say about grace? It is because Jesus said nothing about grace!
Understand that Unity is based on the teachings of Jesus while Christianity is based on the teachings of Paul (and, therefore, should be called "Paulinity') Since Jesus taught nothing about grace, I feel justified in speculating on what he would say. I think he said it in his parable about the prodigal son. Recall how, when the prodigal returns home after squandering his inheritance, his father sees him coming and runs to meet him halfway, "graciously" welcoming the boy back into the household. In other words (my other words), you start doing what you need to do and Spirit will get moving too, as in the old adage, "God helps those who help themselves." Paul's head (decapitated by the Romans, by the way) would be spinning just now.
A grace note in a song is a bonus. It can be sung or not-it makes no difference to the composer. So it is with us and God's grace. Grace is always there, for everyone. We do not always see it or use it, and Spirit does not care if we do or we don't. Until we need it and open our awareness to it, grace lies dormant within us. Think of it as a first aid kit stored on a closet shelf and not thought of unless there is an emergency. Even in an emergency, you might forget to grab the first aid kit. No doubt you will work through the emergency with or without it, but things would be better with it. The person who does go for the first aid kit probably does so without consciously thinking about it. So it is with our acquisition of grace. We are not even thinking about it when out of the clear blue, something happens to save the day. That is grace, but it did not come swooping in like Mighty Mouse to save the day, for that would be divine intervention, of which there is none. Instead, just as everyone has cancer cells in them that are not activated, everyone came into this life experience with an unlimited supply of grace. Whether we use any of it or not is entirely up to us. If we go into action, our supply of grace goes into action. Good starts coming to us if we first start going to our good. What is the fifth teaching of Unity? Take action. Do something to deserve something, for you are only equal to what you deserve, never better than what you deserve. By grace we are worthy, by works we are deserving, and by God, we are Unity not Paulinity!
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