What is Grace?

(Someone sent this to me in an email. it meant a lot to me, so I wanted to share)


The following is from a book by David Jeremiah called Captured By Grace. I thought his insight here on the difference between mercy and grace was quite illuminating, and make sure to see the illustration below. It will most likely bring tears to your eyes:

Mercy is God withholding the punishment we rightfully deserve.

Grace is God not only withholding that punishment but offering the most precious of gifts instead.

Mercy withholds the knife from the heart of Isaac.
Grace provides a ram in the thicket.

Mercy runs to forgive the Prodigal Son.
Grace throws a party with every extravagance.

Mercy bandages the wounds of the man beaten by the robbers.
Grace covers the cost of his full recovery.

Mercy hears the cry of the thief on the cross.
Grace promises paradise that very day.

Mercy pays the penalty for our sin at the cross.
Grace substitutes the righteousness of Christ for our wickedness.

Mercy converts Paul on the road to Damascus.
Grace calls him to be an apostle.

Mercy saves John Newton from a life of rebellion and sin.
Grace makes him a pastor and author of a timeless hymn.

Mercy closes the door to hell.
Grace opens the door to heaven.

Mercy withholds what we have earned.
Grace provides blessings we have not earned.


He also includes this story which is quite amazing:

It’s autumn in New York. November 2004. Freezing rain, weary drivers. One carload of delinquents on a joyride. Got the picture?

Their spree begins at the local Cineplex. Bored with action flicks, the teenagers decide to act one out. They break into a car, grab a credit card, and proceed to a video store. There they charge four hundred dollars’ worth of DVDs and video games. Why not pick up a few groceries while they’re at it? A surveillance tape catches the kids selecting a twenty-pound turkey. Remember the turkey.

Pedal to the metal in a silver Nissan, the kids move along an irregular line intersecting with a Hyundai containing one Victoria Ruvolo. The two cars cross paths at approximately 12:30 a.m. Victoria Ruvolo, forty-four, is heading for her Long Island home. Having attended her fourteen-year-old niece’s vocal recital, she looks forward to home and hearth—particularly hearth. She’s ready to unravel the overcoat and scarves, burrow under an electric blanket, and rest her weary self.

Maybe the silver Nissan, approaching from the east, catches Victoria’s eye—maybe not. Later, she won’t be sure. She certainly won’t recall the image of a teenage boy leaning out the window of the Nissan as the car approaches. Nor will she retain any memory of the bulky projectile taking flight from his hands. This is the part about the turkey.

The twenty-pound bird crashes through Victoria’s windshield. It bends the steering wheel inward, smashes into her face, and breaks every bone it encounters. Victoria will remember none of this—frankly, a stroke of mercy. Eight hours of surgery and three weeks of recovery later, however, friends and family fill in the blanks. Victoria lies impassively in a bed in Stony Brook University Hospital and listens to every detail. Yet her emotions are difficult to discern, given the mask her face has become: shattered like pottery, now stapled together by titanium plates; an eye affixed by synthetic film; a wired jaw; a tracheotomy.

The public reaction is much more vigorous. The media has run with this story; weblogs follow every new detail of arrest and arraignment. Over Thanksgiving, New Yorkers whispered prayers of gratitude that they were not Victoria Ruvolo. Over Christmas, they cherished their health and their fortunes a little bit more than usual. Over the New Year, they cried out for justice. Internet bloggers and TV pundits suggest what they’d do if they could be in a room for five minutes with those punks in the Nissan. They’d especially love to lay hands on Ryan Cushing, the eighteen-year- old who heaved the turkey. His face should be shattered. His life should lie in ruins. That’s how the man in the street sees it.

But it’s all in the hands of the justice system. On Monday, August 15, 2005, Ryan and Victoria meet face to restructured face in the courtroom. Nine agonizing, titanium-bolted months have passed since the attack. Victoria manages to walk into the courtroom unaided, a victory in itself. A trembling Ryan Cushing pleads guilty—to a lesser charge. Sentence: a trifling six months behind bars, five years probation, a bit of counseling, a dash of public service. People shake their heads in righteous indignation. Is that all the punishment we can dish out? When did this country become so soft on crime? Let’s lock up all these criminals and throw away the key. Who is responsible for this plea bargain anyway?

The victim. That’s who. The victim requests leniency.

Ryan makes his plea and then turns to Victoria Ruvolo, all the essence of tough guy long since drained away. He is weeping with abandon. The attorney leads the assailant to the victim, and Victoria holds him tight, comforts him, strokes his hair, and offers reassuring words. “I forgive you,” she whispers. “I want your life to be the best it can be.” Tears mingle from mask of reconstruction and mask of remorse. It takes quite an event to bring tears to the eyes of New York attorneys and magistrates. This is such an event. TV and radio reporters file their stories in voices that for once are hushed and respectful. The New York Times dubs it “a moment of grace.”


I’ve looked at grace as the thing I could never deserve (which is true), so that means I can never accept it (not true).

Aside from my cultural heritage, my religious upbringing taught me exactly this: we have to deserve the gifts we receive. We have to deserve the good stuff as much as we deserve the bad stuff. In life, there’s suffering because we are broken, messed up people. After death, there’s more suffering because we were broken, messed up people.

It is difficult for me to fully experience grace because I have to rewrite 15 years of theology from my developmental stage in life. And slowly work toward completing 11+ years of new theology that is personal and very, very strange.

Grace should move me to tears in gratitude, not reduce me to tremble in fear.

This is the prayer I need you to pray for me. And if this is the prayer that you need for yourself as well, I will be overjoyed to pray it for you as well.

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