Grace is the means by which this love is made available. Unlike human love, which so often has to be earned or deemed deserving in some way, grace means that the God of the Bible is simply and utterly besotted with you.
That’s a mind-blowing concept because it is so far removed from the way that humans relate to one another. And that is rather the point. God’s love stands for something that is in stark contrast to the way love is often transacted in human relationships.
The love of God costs nothing, doesn’t have to be earned, you don’t have to compete with anyone to receive it, you are not in a league table of people who are more or less deserving. God simply could not be any more in love with you than is already the case.
Try and sit with that for a moment and allow it to sink in.
All those ways we beat ourselves up for being inadequate in this or that regard; or the way that we can sometimes be secretly quite pleased with ourselves or think we’re better than others. God doesn’t give a hoot about any of that. That’s what grace is.
It is through Jesus that this amazing gift has been shown to us, and all we have to do is take it.
In the Vicarage kitchen is a fruit bowl which is always stocked with good things to eat; apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, all bursting with vitamins, minerals, fibre and natural sweetness. It sits there on the counter inviting me to partake of it, rather than the toaster or the biscuit tin. Whether or not I choose to reach out for an apple, the apples are always there.
Having a well stocked fruit bowl doesn’t make my diet healthy. The vitamins don’t magically find their way into my bloodstreams, simply because I’m in the same room as a tangerine. The availability of healthy nourishment that fruit contains still requires action on my part in order to enjoy the full benefits.
This is what God’s love for us is like, constantly available, inviting us not only to be present to it but to actively partake in it, through prayer, Bible study and Christian service.
St Paul wrote, ‘[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12.9, NIV). If we lived as if we believed God really means it - that grace really is enough - what, I wonder, might that look like?
We would, I imagine, be dipping into that bowl of grace every day, enjoying all the delights of knowing that God is alongside us and within us, drawing us closer, and enabling us to be transformed by all the goodness God has to offer.
All the ways we behave towards others to needlessly quell our fears and anxieties, to compete and prove ourselves as deserving, would simply fall away. As the old hymn puts it:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.
— Helen Howarth Lemmel (1863-1961)
To live under God’s grace means means putting God at the heart of our consciousness each and every day. When we do this the human desire to feel we’re better than others, or the drive to be more successful than them, the hunger to manipulate and control, or acquire more possessions, and all the rest of it, simply begins to look dull. We are drawn to the light that does not fade, the grace of God that never wants to belittle or put us down but simply offers to welcome us home.