Author R. Lofton Hudson tells about a conversation he had with a friend: “What do you think of when I say the word ‘Grace’? He smiled and said, ‘Grace is a blue-eyed blond.’” His friend was probably serious, because there are many Graces who are blue-eyed and blonde. But Hudson went on to write a book, Grace is NOT a Blue-Eyed Blonde. He defines Grace in theological language: “Grace is the unconditional offering of God’s love”.
We need this kind of love in the world today. The kind that says, “I love you, no matter what.” Grace is the Prodigal Son’s father running out to meet the wayward child, not only forgiving him, but having a celebration that the son came home. Grace is a husband and wife saying, “I’m sorry,” or, “I was wrong,” and overlooking each other’s faults. Every relationship needs an abundance of Grace. The Apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh. We don’t know exactly what it was. According to Scripture, he prayed several times that it be taken away, but instead he found the Grace of God to be sufficient.
All of us have thorns in the flesh of one kind or another. I saw a bumper sticker with these words: “God bless this lousy car”. There are times when all of us feel lousy. We pray that the thorns be removed, but they are still with us. God doesn’t take them away, but gives us strength and patience to deal with them. God is not some kind of cosmic nursemaid to take away all of our problems. God gives us the power we need to cope with our difficulties gracefully.
Sometimes, grace is with us when we least expect it. It comes in the form of a friend calling another friend to say, “Hello,” and “How are you?” It comes when we feel forgiven for saying something stupid. It appears with every kindness we express to another human being. Grace helps us to love the unlovely and unlovable. It’s easy to love people when they love you back. No problem. But try to express unselfish love to a difficult person. Grace can work wonders.
It is said that domestic animals, especially dogs, have a lot of grace. They love you unconditionally. Like the little boy who found a dog by the side of the road—mangy, dirty, smelly—the dog had been thrown away. The boy begged his father to let him take the dog home. “Why would you want an animal like that?” the father asked. “Because he wags his tail so good,” was the boy’s response. He took him home.
Grace reaches beyond party, politics, class, category and creed. It says, “I accept you as you are.”
I read the other day that one of the reasons the Titanic hit an iceberg and went down was that the radios on the ship were completely jammed with trivial conversation of passengers with friends back home, and other ships in the area could not get through with warning signals. Maybe the reason God’s Grace can’t get through to us is that our circuits are jammed. We are so busy talking and doing that we don’t have much time to listen, to meditate and to receive what God offers. Grace helps us to stay in tune.
There’s an old story about a man who died and was met by St. Peter at the gates of Heaven. “Before I let you in, you need to have earned 1,000 points,” said Peter. “Well, uh, I went to church regularly,” the man continued. “That’s 20 points,” Peter assured him. “I gave ten percent of my income to charity,” continued the man. “Good, that’s twenty more points.” “I took an active part in the community,” said the applicant. “Excellent, that’s 20 points,” according to Peter. “Uh, uh, I was good to my family,” scrambled the man. “Wonderful, that’s 50 points,” replied Peter. The man went on to name every good deed he could remember when he was a Boy Scout and in other activities, earning him another 100 points. Finally, he said, “I can’t think of anything else. Goodness, that’s only 210 points. The only way I can get into Heaven is by the Grace of God.” “That’s right,” answered Peter, “so come on in.”