I believe the great need of our day is the revelation of grace. Not mentally ascending to the truth of grace but a revealing of grace in our hearts by the Holy Spirit – there is a difference.
My working definitions of justice, mercy and grace are as follows:
- Justice means you get what you deserve.
- Mercy means you don’t get what you deserve.
- Grace means that you get what you could never deserve.
Grace stands in contrast to the common ideas of the survival of the fittest and getting rewarded (at work) for a job well done. Some things in the Kingdom of God do not come by working harder, working smarter or by striving to achieve (James 4).
There are four great stories in Phillip Yancey’s book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?“, that begin to give us a picture of grace from God’s perspective. Here’s one of them:
“A vagrant lives near the Fulton Fish Market on the lower east side of Manhattan. The slimy smell of fish carcasses and entrails nearly overpowers him, and he hates the trucks that noisily arrive before sunrise. But midtown gets crowded, and the cops harass him there. Down by the wharves nobody bothers with a grizzled man who keeps to himself and sleeps on a loading dock behind a dumpster.
Early one morning when the workers are slinging eel and halibut off the trucks, yelling, to each other in Italian, the vagrant rouses himself and pokes through the Dumpsters behind the tourist restaurants. An early start guarantees good pickings: last night’s uneaten garlic bread and French fries, nibbled pizza, a wedge of cheesecake. He eats what he can stomach and stuffs the rest in a brown paper sack. The bottles and cans he stashes in plastic bags in his rusty shopping cart.
The morning sun, pale through harbor fog, finally makes it over the buildings by the wharf. When he sees the ticket from last week’s lottery ticket in a pile of wilted lettuce, he almost lets it go. But by force of habit he picks it up and jams it in his pocket. In the old days, when luck was better, he used to buy one ticket a week, never more. It’s past noon when he remembers the ticket stub and holds it up to the newspaper box to compare the numbers. Three numbers match, the fourth, the fifth-all seven! It can’t be true. Things like that don’t happen to him. Bums don’t win the New York Lottery.
But it is true. Later that day he is squinting into the bright lights as television crews present the newest media darling, the unshaven, baggy pants vagrant who will receive $243,000 per year for the next twenty years. A chic-looking woman wearing, a leather miniskirt shoves a microphone in his face and asks, “How do you feel?” He stares back dazed, and catches a whiff of her perfume. It has been a long time, a very long time, since anyone has asked him that question.
He feels like a man who has been to the edge of starvation and back, and is beginning to fathom that he’ll never feel hunger again.”
Imagine life with grace as the foundation…Well?
“We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit,[b] as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;”
— Col 1:3-6 (NKJV)