Monday, December 28, 2015

Master’s Monday: Where’s the Grace in That?

As has probably become apparent from previous posts, my mind has often been on “hope” this fall and on all that it means for the Christian’s walk with Christ. Looking to the upcoming school terms, however, I have also spent time preparing my mind for the thesis I will soon begin researching in depth, on Paul’s understanding of “grace” (“charis” in the Greek).

We discussed “charis” a bit in church yesterday, and I noticed a trio of New Testament passages that seem to be using the term in similar ways, but which I had never before thought to consider alongside one another. The verse from Romans is probably quite familiar to most, but the other two passages often do not even appear with the English word “grace” as part of their translation, and therefore may come as a bit of a surprise. I have offered close paraphrases of all three passages, however, and I have translated “charis” as “grace” each time it appears.

Luke 6:32-35

If you love those who love you, where’s the grace in that? Even those apart from God love those who love them. And if you benefit those who benefit you, where’s the grace in that? Even those apart from God do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect a return, where’s the grace in that? For even those apart from God lend to others like themselves, in order that they may receive an equal return. Rather, love your enemies, benefit them, and lend to them, and don’t worry about getting a return; for your return will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for He is good even to the graceless and the wicked.

Romans 4:4

For the one who does his job, his return is calculated according to what is owed him, and not according to grace. 

1 Peter 2:19-21

This is grace, if for the sake of sharing in the mind of God someone endures affliction, suffering unjustly. For what glory is it, if you do wrong and are punished for it and you take it patiently? But if you try to benefit someone and suffer for it and take it patiently, this is grace in God’s eyes. For you have been called to this very thing, since Christ also suffered for you and left behind a pattern for you, so that you might follow Him precisely, placing each step in every footprint He has left behind.

As far as we know from the Gospels, Jesus didn’t say much about “grace,” or at least not explicitly. It’s kind-of funny to think about, in light of how central the term has become for much of the church world. Actually the only time Jesus uses the word is in the above-quoted passage from Luke Chapter 6. The more I think about these three passages together, the more I wonder whether Peter and Paul may each have had this teaching of Jesus in mind. Or if they were not thinking of this specific incident as it has been related in Luke, then they at least shared a very closely-connected conviction of what is grace in God’s eyes.

Lord, help me to love others and seek their benefit, leaving any return I may receive in Your good and gracious hands. Help me never to treat my relationship to others or to You as a “job” for me to complete or a tool to place others in my debt. My first desire is to be your true child, following in every footstep of your perfect Son, Jesus Christ.

~ LaRae ~