Forgiveness and Grace
In September, my uncle died. He was 91 years old and was dealing with cancer at the time of his death. I recall a conversation we had about a year ago. He wanted to talk about his life but he also wanted to talk about death because he knew the duration of his days on this earth was coming to a close. He told me that he used to get nervous before he received a report card in school. But as he approached death he said he was not nervous. He knew that if he received a report card for the way in which he lived his life, and if he received an “F,” the “F” would not be for failure. Rather it would be for forgiveness. I paused for a moment and said I thought he was referring to grace and he agreed and said, “That’s right, God’s grace.”
I had the honor to officiate at my uncle’s funeral service and I talked about his understanding of grace and how I understood how my uncle extended grace to others. I recently read Philip Yancey’s book, What’s So Amazing about Grace? Yancey discusses how we are recipients of God’s grace. He says we often deserve punishment and yet we receive forgiveness. We sometimes deserve God’s judgment and yet we receive God’s love. According to Yancey, this is amazing grace that comes only from God.
We all benefit from God’s grace because he is a loving God and his grace is truly amazing. But what can we learn from God’s grace? Can his grace rub off on us? Does grace only fall to God or do we have an obligation to be more “graceful?” In fact, Yancey cuts to the heart of the matter and bluntly asks the question, “If grace is so amazing, why don’t Christians show more of it?” He tells story after story where Christians have treated others very poorly and the notion of grace is almost nowhere to be found. At one point, Yancey says that grace dies when it becomes us vs. them. When we don’t love others or show them respect, then grace becomes absent.
I am touched by my uncle’s understanding of forgiveness and grace. I am also touched by the way he showed grace to others. I can only hope and pray that I am able to extend such grace to others in a similar way. I also hope that as we struggle with the concept of grace in an honest and authentic manner that there will come a time in which grace is associated more freely with the church. After all, according to Yancey, that’s where it belongs.