It was supposed to be a promotion of an abstraction or an ideal. I chose Grace, cause I think it's the most important virtue.
A man is lying face down in a ditch. His body is crushed and broken, covered in blood. No one will take him out because they are afraid of the one that left him there. His flesh is rotting. And he stinks. A Physician and his Son are walking together and come upon that reeking, filthy thing that used to resemble a human. After looking at it for a moment, the Son touches his Father’s arm.
“Father,” he says, “Can we save him?”
“Yes,” the Father replies. “But only if you are willing to give up your own life for him; if you are willing to leave our home and take his place, take his enemies, take his death, even.”
“I am willing,” the Son says. “If it is your will.”
And so, together, they gather the unknown, rotten body up into their arms and wrap it in the Son’s coat. And the Father takes him him home, where he feeds, clothes and heals him. The Son becomes an exile from his home, sleeping instead in the most squalid places, even a stable. He lives a peaceable life, harming no one. He tells people about his Father, about what an amazing Physician he is, about the many lives he can save, if only they trust him. Then, one day, the people turn against the Son, for no reason at all. They flog him and taunt him. And then they kill him.
There is a key difference between mercy and grace, though sometimes they are used interchangeably. Mercy is being spared from something which you justly deserve. Grace, however, is being freely given something that you don’t deserve at all.
We are that body lying in the muddy ditch. Forgotten. Forsaken. Grace is what the Son gives us. For no reason at all except that He loves us.
Grace is covering shame with compassion. Grace is being able to lovingly give somebody something incredible that they do NOT deserve. A world full of grace would be a wonderful world.
Unfortunately, especially recently, our country, community, and culture have been the exact opposite of grace. We may talk all we like about how we accept others as they are. But we don’t truly show grace. See, when we grudgingly “accept” someone just because we think we have to, just because they’re different and therefore entitled to acceptance, we are smearing the name of grace. Grace is something totally different. And better. I would go so far as to say that grace is the most important virtue. Because without grace, every one of us would die and go to hell. Because nothing else matters as much as Jesus’ loving gift to us. Because grace is what covers our sins in beauty even though we deserve to have them displayed in all their revolting ugliness for everyone to see.
The word “grace” comes from the Latin word, “gratia” meaning “pleasing quality, or good will.” There are similar words to “grace” such as kindness, generosity, indulgence, and favor but none that truly express the meaning and significance as well as the word itself.
Of course, our pitiful attempts at grace can not compare to our heavenly Father’s grace to us, just as a flea’s strength cannot compare to that of a lion. But still, we are instructed to be full of grace. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Good stewards, as in a parable Jesus told, not only guard the things they are entrusted with. They also put the things to work. They use the things. We need to put grace to work in our lives and the world. If we don’t, we are being ungrateful for the grace we have received. If we are truly grateful, then we will try as hard as we can to spread grace, and in spreading grace we will be used to spread the name of Christ. The band, U2 got many things wrong in their faith, philosophy, and lifestyle, but they did get some things right in their song, Grace: “What once was hurt/ What once was friction/ What left a mark/ No longer stings/ Because Grace makes beauty/Out of ugly things.”
Oftentimes, well, most of the time, really, giving grace to another means that you yourself will be hurt. This is a price that we must be ready to pay. After all, when we look again to the greatest example of grace that has ever been and ever will be, we see great pain. Jesus’ whole life here on earth was difficult and his death was the most tragic thing that has ever happened. But he never sinned once. We sin everyday, numerous times. Over and over again, we disappoint. Over and over again, we stray. How can we not feel at least obligated, if not happy, to show grace to the other people around us; the ones who make mistakes just like us. In closing, I will read from 1 Peter chapter 2, verses 19 through 24. “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
That’s what grace truly is: being willing to give up your life for another. Not merely your physical life, either. But, also being able to die to yourself every day; being willing to give up what you want to help someone else; being willing to give sweet words when what they deserve is anger; being willing to reach out and love the ones that aren’t worthy of love.