Grace, always grace

Mark Westmoreland's picture

As I consider the Christian faith, I find certain fundamentals we all proclaim, and as I sort through those fundamentals, one concept that seems to capture them all, one idea, one doctrine, one experience, one word: Grace.

It’s a word sometimes misunderstood, sometimes abused, sometimes conveniently forgotten, but once embraced, its beauty and power are undeniable. It is what I believe; it is what I preach, however clumsily; and in my best moments it is what I seek to live.

Grace begins in the heart of God.

The first expression of God’s grace is life itself. The world is, and we are. Life is grace, a gift.

Not one of us applied for this position called human being. Not one of us earned it. Every baby comes into the world wonderfully made with the image of God within.

For a moment in our eyes, and forever in God’s grace, every child is equal, every child beloved. Soon enough, of course, the world’s brokenness and inequities divide us, and, yes, there are the decisions we make or maybe our parents, and, soon enough, we find ourselves high and low in the world’s order, lost or found.

But here is the point: Life is a gift, and in the eyes of God, every human being a miraculous masterpiece, infinitely loved.

Grace is revealed most wondrously in Jesus Christ.

He emptied himself and came to us, one of us, God with us and God for all. He fully embraced human life and humanity (This is a thought worth lingering over, deserving of another year’s worth of columns). He lived and died faithful and forgiving, never wavering from his redemptive calling, true always to God’s grace.

In the Resurrection, his way of grace was affirmed, and a new creation begun. And all this is a gift, never earned, only embraced.

As in the moment of birth, in our experience of God’s grace we stand as equals, each of us wonderfully made, each of us wonderfully re-made in the love of God.

Grace is a place, the church.

This is where it gets interesting and sometimes difficult. Every one of us finds our way to church in the grace of God, and we are welcomed there BY the grace of God. Our differences again mean nothing, and God’s love in Jesus Christ means everything.

In the church, God’s way reigns, Christ’s love guides, and God’s Spirit makes of us all the Body of Christ in the world.

There’s nobody here but us sinners, not one of us better than another, and there’s nobody here but God’s children, holy and saved by grace. There’s nobody here but the very people of God, called and empowered and free.

Grace is a Way.

As my old teacher, Fred Craddock, puts it, “Grace begets graciousness.” To follow Christ is to love each other as he loves us. To be the church is to speak and embody God’s grace for the world. Grace is care shown, truth spoken with love, help offered. Grace is a way of living.

Grace is a way of seeing: From the perspective of grace, you can never look down upon anyone; the one before you is as loved by God as you are.

God’s grace is our beginning, God’s grace our destination. God’s grace is the journey, moment by moment, gift by gift, all along the Way.

[The Rev. Mark Westmoreland (mwestmoreland@fayettevillefirst.com) is senior pastor of Fayetteville First United Methodist Church.]