Several years ago, I wrote a blog about teaching children the concept of grace (see May 29th, 2009). Today, a very shortened version of that story appears in the daily devotional guide, The Upper Room. The editorial staff of the Upper Room kindly invited me to write the blog entry to accompany my devotional. In "Growing in Grace," I tell the story of another teacher who gave me the theological backdrop I needed to intellectually understand grace.
Here is the rest of the rest of the story. Shortly after taking this class, I had an opportunity to tell Dr. Jack Cottrell of the Cincinnati Christian University how thankful I was for his class: that it wasn't merely an attainment of head knowledge; instead, his explanation of grace literally set me free from the bondage of unworthiness I felt from some difficult events in my childhood.
As I told him briefly what those events were, doggonit, the man wouldn't respond to my words of thanks. Instead, he grabbed my forearm and interrupted me.
"Are you all right now?" he asked, concern and compassion tenderizing each word.
I stammered a "yeah, sure I'm ok," hating myself for the lie, and moved on quickly to finish my prepared speech of thanks. I didn't want to cry in front of Dr. Cottrell but his action was another lesson in the life-time course of God's grace. This man, this well-known writer of many books, this scholar of theology was willing to be concerned about me. He wasn't judging me because I had been such a slow learner. He wasn't saying, "What's your problem? What kind of slow learner are you?" He wasn't impatiently tapping his foot, waiting for yet another over-zealous student to finish blathering. He wasn't looking down on me for being a broken human being. Instead, as a gifted teacher, he added precept upon precept.
It was another grace-gift, another illumination of what grace is about. He taught me that as Christ has offered grace to us, we need to offer grace to others. If I can say one more time, in the third venue of the day, our actions and responses teach others the meaning of God's grace.
Giving people more than they deserve is such a foreign concept in our culture. A news commentator I usually highly respect sometimes alludes to 'karma," the concept of people getting their just desserts. No, no, I want to scream at the television. Our job is not to smugly smile when people get a return of justice. Like Jesus, our hearts need to break that they have not been delivered from the same bondage that has entrapped us. Grace is tough to understand. We are not going to "get it" just by reading the Bible. Like Dr. Cottrell and Mrs. Jackson, my third grade teacher, we need to live grace out loud so the people we influence can grow in their understanding of God's grace, acceptance and forgiveness.
Each of us, whether we teach children or not, have the responsibility and opportunity to model grace. Like me, each of us needs repetitive expressions of grace, for each time someone models grace, it acts as one more building block to the structure of my understanding of what God did for me through Jesus at the cross. Even though I have been a Christian for over 40 years, I still need reminders of God's grace - and I need daily practice in exhibiting it to others.
Who in your life needs a gift of grace today? Name a child, a non-believer and a growing Christian to whom you can exhibit grace. Then pray that God will give you a God-nudge when the moment is right to share His message and example of grace with that person.