It’s something we can’t earn. It’s available to everyone of us. Regardless of what we’ve done, it’s simply offered. It’s grace from God.
One of the simplest, yet most complex understandings of how God interacts with us, is the concept of grace. Grace is simply the love God has for us that we can’t earn and is available regardless of what we’ve done or how we’ve lived.
I was explaining to my favorite theologian and father, The Rev. Dr. Dr. Boyd Blumer, that I was trying to simplify grace. To take away all the church words and make the concept of grace more accessible. He said this, “When we try to describe our experience of life and faith, our words are inadequate. So we use big words to describe concepts. It’s also our temptation to tell others that our experience should be someone else’s experience.”
For those of us with a United Methodist background, our understanding of grace likely comes through the writings, sermons, and interpretations of John Wesley. My hope is to explore Wesley’s concepts of grace and make them easier to understand and apply in our own lives.
Wesley summarized grace in at least three different forms:
Prevenient Grace – think Convenient or Preview
Justifying Grace – think Testifying or Forgiving
Sanctifying Grace – think Next Steps or Perfecting
Prevenient Grace, in Wesley’s most controversial description, is grace that “comes before” all else. It’s all around us, in all of creation, and is what pulls us toward God. It is the convenient love that surrounds us and gives us a preview of a different life. It manifests itself in things that happen in our lives that we simply can’t explain and know are beyond coincidence. Wesley actually describes prevenient grace as the porch of a house – it’s an accessible, convenient place that invites us to come further. To preview something different.
Justifying Grace is described by some as a conversion or as Wesley describes it when, “my heart was strangely warmed.” It’s the doorway to the house where we testify that we’re changed and receive assurance of our forgiveness with God. It’s an identity and a new relationship that we can’t earn and can’t be taken away from us. We testify that we have forgiveness and we are ready to explore a different life.
Sanctifying Grace involves the next steps we take in becoming more like Christ. It’s what Wesley describes as “moving on to perfection.” It’s the steps we take to increasing or perfecting our faith, leading us to doing good works for others, and the life-long pursuit of increasing our connection and relationship with God.
There is an outside chance that my research and writing will morph into a book. If you’d be willing to share your stories of grace, please send them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Through story and our collective experience, it will be my attempt in Simplifying Grace.