Karen Gibson: One word changes history
Craig — What drives a person to sacrifice long hours to help someone who is incarcerated or someone who has lived a life of addiction, abuse or poverty find a new way of living?
Why do people devote sometimes their entire lives to serving others?
Why are Habitat for Humanity homes built around the nation, Doctors Without Borders going around the world or people working tirelessly with LOVE INC here in Craig?
Some observers may not understand their reasoning, but a movie produced last year captures the essence of the inspiration behind many social justice agencies in Craig and around the world.
The movie “Amazing Grace” came out one year ago telling the story of how this famous hymn came to be written.
John Newton, the captain of a British ship, received the grace of God through a spiritual conversion experience, and he was inspired to write his feelings down in word in 1779. Many Christians would call Newton’s experience being reborn or a rebirth.
The main thrust of the movie had to do with how the British Parliament ended slave trade in England. It was through the protests and struggles of abolitionist William Wilberforce that the law against slavery passed.
The freedom of that amazing grace Captain John Newton wrote about conjures up all kinds of images. It helps to define grace in order to understand what grace is.
Grace is actually a very large word according to Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, from an article she wrote, “Growing in Grace.” “It includes unmerited favor, forgiveness, second chances, surprises, reframings, epephanic breakthroughs, whole paradigm shifts.” You cannot earn this gift of grace; it is God’s gift.
When one says, “yes” to the gift of grace, God’s love is given, bestowed, showered down upon the one who says “yes.” But even before saying “yes,” God has first chosen each one of us individually. In “Responsible Grace,” John Wesley’s Practical Theology by Randy Maddox, he explains how faith is given by God as “evidence of God’s pardoning love for us, that is, the Spirit’s witness of our justification and adoption.” Before we say, “yes,” God chooses us to receive the gift of grace, so that it is not anything we have done to receive this free gift from God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2: 8 NRSV. In “Home By Another Way,” Barbara Brown Taylor, explains it is not “works-righteousness,” it is not us saying yes that gives us freedom from our past – God’s powerful gift of love is given to us first. “Not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2: 9NRSV.
So what is grace? Grace is God’s love, so generously poured out and luxuriously given to us when we say “yes.” You cannot work to earn grace; you cannot work to receive grace.
Grace is free.
How do I know? I know because of Easter. Because of the work already performed for us on the cross through the love of Jesus Christ who died for all our sins – who already did the work for us – who before we were born died for us and saved us and calls us to say “yes” so that we might have life and have it abundantly. With the gift of grace, we are called to share that amazing, amazing love with others – who do you know that needs to hear that good news?
As McEntyre points out, “Freely you have received,” Jesus tells the disciples, “Freely give.” Matt. 10: 8 NIV. Everyone has been given the invitation to dance with God. Amazing love, how sweet the sound, calling us to fall in love with Jesus setting us free to respond in amazing ways to all kinds of works for justice – the question is, will you say, “yes?”
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