I've been reading some books on Grace. It's a big, important word in theology and the Church. It comes from the Greek word, Charis, and translates the Hebrew word for favor in the Greek version of the Old Testament. It's not used all that much in the Bible. Paul uses it the most. He made the word important for Christians. It was a common word in his culture without anything like the meaning Paul endowed it with. By grace, you have been saved. Paul wrote that and pinned his theology of salvation on that one word. Christians have used it ever since. Some great theologians like Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Barth studied Paul's use of grace and put it right at the heart of their theology. It was not as simple as it sounds. There were great controversies in the Church over grace. Edward Oakes writes about some of them in his book, A Theology of Grace in Six Controversies. It's an interesting book but some of the debating about how grace works with our own nature, i.e., are we wired with a need to seek grace or does that make it less gracious if we are, etc, may be important but I'll let others puzzle it out. I know grace when I see it. I know grace when I don't see it and it bothers me that I don't see enough of it these days. But, if I look closely, pay attention, I can almost always find grace every day. I need to keep track and make notes of grace.
The other day at church I heard about a person who formed a committee in her neighborhood to raise enough money to send a student to one of finer private schools in our city. I saw a table full of school supplies that people bought and carried in for a school in our community. I took part in a discussion of racial inequality and how our church can be more proactive in areas of social injustice. I made notes of grace.
There are lots of examples of ungrace in our world today and in our churches, too. We don't have to look to hard for those, unfortunately. Some of our earliest theologians said love is the essence of grace. I believe that. Jesus told us love is the one distinguishing mark of his followers. Paul, echoed that, writing that without love - nothing we do matters.