I have a theory about a word we Christians read and use regularly without giving its meaning much thought: Grace.
Certainly there are entries in dictionaries for it, however they refer to worldly transitions that are smoothly accomplished or to human attempts at kindness.
But the grace of the Bible identifies our relationship with God. It is strictly spiritual and cannot be described with physical words.
The only practical option we have is to say what it’s not. Obviously, negative logic is inherently weak. E.g., the color green isn’t the color red, but it’s not a plant or an Easter egg or an airplane either.
Yet, since there aren’t words to describe it, those negatives are even what we find in Scripture. Probably the most familiar facet of God’s grace is agape love as it’s laid out.
There are three Greek words that translate to the English word love. Eros for sexual, Phileo for brotherly, and Agape for God’s love.
We hold that Corinthians passage up as the supreme example of Christian love and try to imitate what it says. Let’s take another look at that passage and this time notice how it’s actually uses characteristics that are not ours –things we absolutely cannot do.
Verse eight sets the standard for agape: “Love never fails.” All of the preceding cases (in verses four onward) are based on the same unconditional expressions: always or never:
Grace is a one-sided relationship. It’s how God bonds Himself to us. Typically, the NT letters say something to the effect of “grace and peace to you.” That’s equivalent to “accept and respond to the relationship that God has established with you.”
Conversely, the letters don’t say “may your grace exude from you” or “treat others with your grace just as God does you.” Rather they say “forgive others” or “be kind” or “love others as you love yourself” or “treat others as you want to be treated” . . . “do to other humans just what humans are capable of doing.” That leaves us with phileo and eros to express with our own natural abilities (i.e., our flesh).
Although He might choose to manifest His agape love through His Spirit using our physical bodies, we are not capable of producing it any other way.
He did give us more facets of His grace so that we might understand the secure relationship we have with Him. They are found in those worldly examples I mentioned earlier. Here’s a quote from the Grace section of “Untangling the Gospel”.
We use that word to describe things in our world. In dance, grace is the smooth gliding movements across the floor. In music, grace-notes are the brisk accents that engagingly carry the listener between chords. In gatherings, social-grace is the ability to pleasantly (and peacefully) join in conversations and activities with others. In nature, it’s the seemingly effortless motion of trees swaying, water creatures swimming and birds soaring.
God’s grace refers to His relationship with us from the time we are saved here on earth to when we are holding hands with our loving Bridegroom at the marriage feast in heaven. He has made every provision for our interactions with Him to be smooth, gliding, engaging, pleasing, inoffensive and effortless. It’s up to us to believe that to be true and enjoy even this time with Him.
Sure, our initial understanding of grace was that the Law’s constraints on our behaviors have been removed. However, as we grow in faith, we find that grace is synonymous with His total acceptance of who we have become: new creations in Christ, a part of His body, joined together with Him.