What Makes Grace, Outrageous Grace?
By Ed Delph
April 24, 2023
Last week, I started a two-part series about grace. This article is the second installment of the series. We focused on two sentences in a statement by author Max Lucado. Here are the two sentences. “Those who scramble at quitting time get the same wage as those who beat the morning whistle. I guess that's what makes grace, grace." So this week, let's explore the question, “What Makes Grace, Grace?”
Let me share an illustration that defines forgiveness, mercy, and grace. If it is too hard for you to believe, that's what makes grace, grace. This illustration is a story of amazing, outrageous grace on display.
A stranger passing through a city needed a place to sleep. A kind father offered the stranger a bed in his house. During the night, the stranger robbed the father, killed his son, and ran away. After a while, the stranger was caught and brought before a court. The kind father who was robbed and whose son was killed could exercise the following ways of handling the offense.
First, the kind father could choose forgiveness. The father could forgive the stranger for his sin against him, leave the courtroom and allow the judge to determine his future. Second, the kind father could choose mercy. The man could forgive the stranger, drop the charges against him, and allow the stranger to go free. Thirdly, the kind father could forgive the stranger, drop the charges against him, bring the stranger home, adopt him as his son, and make him heir to everything he owned.
When I read this illustration years ago, it stunned me. It jumped into my space. The illustration shows us humans how amazing God's grace is in an example we can relate to. You might think, "That's impossible. How could any father do that? I want justice."
You are right. It's impossible to do this with your strength. But that's the point, we humans can’t do this, but God can, and God did with the sacrifice of his very own Son. God gave us grace when we deserved justice. That's absurd but true. God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were useless to him. That's what makes grace, grace. Some describe grace as G.R.A.C.E - God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
So, what is grace? The original language defines grace as undeserved favor. We cannot earn grace; grace is something that is freely given. Grace implies a benign attitude and a willingness to grant favors or make concessions. Grace is where God shows goodness toward those without reason to expect or deserve it. It's 'just because.' Grace is when God gives us good things that we don't deserve. Mercy is when God spares us from the bad things we deserve. Blessings are when He is generous with both.
But grace is more than God's goodwill toward us. Grace is His willingness to do in us and for us what we could never do on our own. In other words, grace is a way of God, but it’s also a means of God.
Consider these five types of grace: common grace, saving grace, empowering grace, amazing grace, and outrageous grace.
Common grace is what every living thing partakes in every day. God created air so we can breathe. God made light and water, the basis for all living things, and an earth to live on. We were given a spirit, a soul, and a body. God made everything pertaining to life. We didn’t deserve, earn, or create it, but we partake in it. God gives us his best, the sun to warm and the rain to nourish, to everyone, regardless: the good and the bad, the nice and the nasty. Whether you believe in God or not, you are living by grace and on grace.
Saving grace is the desire and power of God for our salvation. Hence, Paul's statement to the Ephesians, "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8) That salvation is a gift of God - and thus a manifestation of His grace - has already been demonstrated. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all” (Eph. 2:11) We believe we are saved by faith through grace. Joe McIntyre says, “Faith is the hand that receives the grace God freely gives.”
Empowering grace is the power that God willingly gives us to help us do what we could never do on our own. When God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you,” God gave Paul His power to be set free from the thorn that was buffeting him. Grace is more than God's goodwill toward us. Grace is action, not just an attribute. Grace is the power for living as Christ lives, living 'God and grace on display.
Amazing grace is when you can write a song after your family died in a storm at sea and sing, "It is well, with my soul." Amazing grace is when you leave the 99 in safety to find the one sheep that is lost. Amazing grace is when Christ said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “God, not my will be done, but thy will be done.” And grace was on display on Easter morning when up from the grace He arose.
Outrageous grace is when the prodigal son returns, having spent everything the father gave him, and the father throws a party and puts a ring on his finger, saying, "He was lost, but not he is found!" And outrageous grace and grace is displayed when God saves a wretch like you and me!"
When you run alone, it’s called a race. When you run with God, it’s called grace.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com