In the world of cultural Catholicism there is widespread misunderstanding when it comes to grace. And this misunderstanding can keep people far from God and locked in unhelpful patterns and attitudes when it comes to practicing (or not practicing) their faith.
This week we kicked off a new series on grace in which we’re challenging you to ask yourself what you really think about grace (if you think about it at all). Some people think of it as the payoff for religious rule keeping. Others think of it as the prize they win in the little games they play with God to get stuff they want, like healing and health, money and wealth, or whatever.
Grace is favor. Grace is the favor of God. It is the favor of God’s presence and power in the world. Grace means we believe that God didn’t just create the world and then move on, it means he’s present with us. Grace is the pledge and promise of his presence and power in our world and in our lives. God acts, God moves, God makes things happen…for us. Not only is God with us, he’s for us. Grace is the favor of God for you.
Unfortunately, as Andy Stanley has pointed out in his excellent book, “The Grace of God,” grace is often an early casualty of organized religion. The gravitational pull is always toward graceless religion. Instead of defining themselves in terms of what they stand for, religious organizations can sometimes take the less imaginative, easier path of defining themselves in terms of what they’re against. Ironically, when you read the New Testament, the only thing Jesus condemned consistently was graceless religion. The only people he actually got angry with were graceless religious leaders who made religion all about rule keeping and game playing and prize winning, instead of about grace.
When it comes to God and our relationship with him, it is all about grace. Classic Catholic theology talks about “actual” grace and “sanctifying” grace and many other kinds of grace, but it all comes down to this: it’s all about grace. Grace precedes any good work we do, any prayer we pray, any movement to God we make. And then it infuses our good work and follows from it. The famous novel of George Bernanos ends with the phrase that sums it all up, “All is grace.”
Please join this coming weekend and all the weekends of Lent (live, on line, or anytime in our message archives) as we explore the favor of grace.