When I reflect on my time in Ireland thus far, one of the words that comes to mind is “grace.” I have heard this word over and over in church my whole life and yet it is something I don’t think I have seen much there. What I have seen instead there (and been a part of myself) is judgment, fear, and condemnation. When I think about grace, I think about welcoming someone with open arms, no matter who they are and what they’ve done. Two years ago, I spent the summer in Peru as part of a group of interns. What shocked me most about that summer was how welcomed and accepted I felt by that group of (non-Christian) interns, perhaps more welcomed and accepted than I have felt in most times of my life. Needless to say, I returned from Peru deeply convicted by the lack of grace I, as a Christian, offer to others.
So, then, for the past 2 years, I have thought a lot about how to offer grace to others. Perhaps the hardest part for me is letting myself get close to people I have grown up fearing-fearing them because the things they do are too bad for a “good girl” like me to be a part of (homosexuals are one example). Here in Ireland, God is putting me in contact with all different types of people, people that I wouldn’t normally associate with. The fact that I have believed for most of my life that I am too “good” or “holy” to regularly associate with certain types of people is honestly appalling. Jesus wasn’t afraid to associate with the worst of the worst, and He offered them grace and forgiveness and healing.
So how do I do that? I’m not sure, but I know one way is to remember the horrible, rotten sinner that I am and how I would be doomed to hell if it weren’t for the grace Jesus offered me by dying on the cross. Thankfully, God seems to be reminding me of that more and more often. If I really and truly understood that, I wouldn’t be afraid to offer grace to anyone else. I like what Philip Yancey has to say about grace:
“Grace comes free of charge to people who do not deserve it and I am one of those people. I think back to who I was-resentful, wound tight with anger, a single hardened link in a long chain of ungrace learned from family and church. Now I am trying in my own small way to pipe the tune of grace. I do so because I know, more surely than I know anything, that any pang of healing or forgiveness or goodness I have ever felt comes solely from the grace of God.“
I’ll end with Ephesians 2:8-9, which is so simple yet so profound:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”