Grace. Someone once described this to me as: unearned, unmerited favor and mercy. It is an elegant little word that we Christians tend to throw around quite often. We sing about how amazing it is. We talk about how much it is needed, or maybe how much we’ve received. In fact, we tend to use it like a sparkly accessory to spruce up our ‘good Christian’ persona. As a word, grace is right there at the top of the list of proper Christian vernacular. Sadly, like many good words in our vocabulary, its over-use has dulled its impact.
Unearned, unmerited favor and mercy.
How should this word, this concept, impact us?
I’d actually been pondering this for some days when the answer came via a rather odd source. I was riding in the car one evening, sifting through the local radio stations, when the opening strains of one of my old favorites piqued my interest. I sat back and closed my eyes, (no, I was not driving!) allowing the melody to weave its spell.
The words that had been burned into my mind so many years ago came forth as though I’d heard it only yesterday and I became immersed in the powerful imagery that those lyrics evoked. As the gravelly-voiced singer poured out his angst, I felt my own heart respond. Indeed, I could remember clearly the pain in my soul that this particular song had touched on so many years ago. The song is titled “The Unforgiven” by the heavy metal band Metallica.
Now, I can almost hear a lady-like gasp from some of you. After all, nice Christian ladies DO NOT listen to, let alone enjoy, the devil’s music. And I’m sure you’re wondering how I can possibly think to bring grace and Metallica together. Perhaps I’ve finally gone ‘round the bend, but bear with me here….
“The Unforgiven” reminded me of where I’ve been. A prodigal child at the end of herself, eating with pigs and not quite knowing how to approach the father I had turned my back on. And it reminds me of what grace really is—that loving father running with arms outstretched to greet me and welcome me home. Not just the words in an old hymn, but a real act of love and mercy extended to me when my heart and life were at their darkest. You fellow former bad girls are shouting amen, ‘cause you know what I’m talking about, right?
But what about those of you who did not rebel—are you aware of how badly you need His grace as well? Isaiah 64:6b tells us, “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” We ALL are filthy next to the Most High God. It matters not where you’ve been or not been; what you’ve done or not done. We are all desperately in need of that one little word.
I think that far too often we either forget what we are or we gloss over our own sinfulness and in our pious arrogance we forget that we even have need of grace. We look down and cluck our tongues at the heathens around us. They are in such need of change, we think smugly, not seeing the stains of self-righteousness and pride spreading in our own hardened hearts. What we sometimes fail to understand is that grace is needed each and every day as long as we live on this fallen earth with our polluted human hearts.
Unearned, unmerited favor and mercy from an indescribably awesome God.
I actually have that Metallica album on my iPod. I rarely listen to it these days, but when I do, it serves to remind me of the great gift of grace my Jesus bestows upon me daily. I am not advocating wallowing in one’s past, or on one’s failures, but I am encouraging you all to stop and reflect for a moment on what grace means to you and why you need it.
I pray this reflection will awaken a renewed sense of gratitude for the favor and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. May you find rest and refreshment in knowing that you do not have to earn His profound love for you. And may your thankfulness bring a joy that spills over onto those around you as you truly own and appreciate His amazing grace.