This essay was written as part of the outreach program of The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Lexington to continue to minister to our community in this time of uncertainty and “social distancing” that requires not meeting in person. For essays by my friends and colleagues go to “Calming the Storm.”
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name
It's the name for a girl
It's also a thought that
Changed the world
These are the opening lines from U2’s song “Grace,” from their album All That You Can’t Leave Behind. I have been thinking a lot about the concept of grace in recent weeks and months. These lines always come into my mind as I consider the concept. The album came out in 2000 and I listened to it on the cassette deck in my little white Honda Civic hatchback as I drove across the Ponchartrain Expressway on September 11, 2001. The planes had already taken down the Twin Towers and shattered the Pentagon. The sky was now crystal clear, no air traffic, few cars on the road, and I drove across the 27-mile long bridge to my office at Tulane University, listening to Bono sing about grace, “a thought, that changed the world.”
Shortly after I arrived at the University of Kentucky, our President Dr. Capilouto was speaking about the strength and character of our university. He said it can be summed up in two words: grace and grit. Grit was all about our determination and fortitude to tackle tough, challenging problems, to be proud of being the underdog, but not satisfied with anything less than success. Grace, on the other hand, was not some genteel acceptance of horrible realities bubbling under the surface; it is not elegance or courtesy. Grace is the strength to allow one another the room, the space to be honest, genuine, and vulnerable.
Grace is assuming the best of one another while also offering the salve to heal the wounds that are caused when we are the worst to one another.
In the Bible, grace (χάρις charis) is the term used to describe the mercy and forgiveness that God extends to us, not as we deserve, but because God loves us. It covers the blame; it removes the shame. The grace of God is the forgiveness of sin and the transformation of our lives by the Holy Spirit. In and through Christ, God has offered us this grace and love which is new life. True life. “[We] are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24)
Today we all seek new life; we need new life. Each of us individually and all of us corporately. We ache and groan for a better and more loving, caring world. We are reconciled to God through Christ and now we must be reconciled to one another. That too comes through grace.
If we are to maintain our marriages, families, and friendships we must be willing to allow space for us each to be wrong, to hurt and be hurt. We must offer apologies and accept forgiveness. If we are to heal as a society, if we are to become a more just and caring community, then we must also allow room for difficult truths to be said and heard. We cannot take offense at every word and action but must assume the best of the other even as we may be hurt but what they say and do.
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
Grace finds beauty
Grace finds goodness in everything.
God knows we are all of us hurting and wounded even as we have hurt and wounded others. God knows and so God sent Jesus to bring us the gift of his grace. God has patience with us, God extends mercy to us, God loves us. Now, God asks us to have the same patience, mercy, and love for ourselves and one another.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:3)