It is quite a normal custom in the UK to finish Christian meetings with a prayer called, ‘The Grace’. Whoever is leading the meeting says, “Shall we say, ‘The Grace’?” We are usually encouraged to look at one another while saying it, although some people’s body language indicates that they feel embarrassed to do that. Overseas visitors often have no idea what we are doing and therefore aren`t able to join in. The prayer we have all memorised goes like this: ‘May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be us all evermore. Amen’.
Recently our church was able to preach a series of six sermons on the verse of the Bible which forms the basis of this little prayer (2 Corinthians 13:14). Each week the speaker took a different word or phrase from the verse to preach on.
Our first preacher took the word ‘grace’. He explained that his eyes were opened the day he realised that our acceptance is not based upon what we can do for God, but what God has done for us in Jesus. It was a life-changing concept for him, and he laughed and cried and sang all night in his bed and was utterly changed. He knew then we are supposed to freely enjoy the goodness of God, His kindness, and His favour. This is grace, sometimes described as ‘God’s riches at Christ’s expense’. It was like the day when, as a child, he had been able to enjoy going on all the rides at the funfair for free. (His uncle worked for a company who had paid the bill for the families of their employees).
Many Christians, however, don’t live this way at all. Although Jesus has shown that the way to God the Father is not by works, but by grace, they think there is a ladder of achievement we have to climb. They might think they are doing better than others in pleasing God. Or they might feel they are failing and feel quite guilty. Comparisons are dangerous and we need to get off this ladder. The enemy’s tactics are to puff us up with pride, or accuse us and make us feel unworthy.
Moving on from the need to enjoy the grace we have been given because of what Jesus has done for us, how can we live a life that is full of grace? It’s all about relationships with others. How gracious are we with others when they make mistakes and cause us inconvenience, such as the learner driver in front of us, practising on the road for the first time, just as we were in a hurry? How much mercy do we have upon people who forget things or make spelling mistakes in their emails? Do we treat people with contempt and make critical comments? One of the challenges posed by someone on Facebook is can we go an entire day without complaining or grumbling?
I suppose it’s easy to agree with a sermon preached on grace-filled living and following the example of Jesus but forget all about it from Monday to Saturday and revert to our default habit of being impatient and irritable. Here is the whole passage from 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 in the English Standard Version Bible: ‘Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’. The Contemporary English Version says this: ‘Goodbye, my friends. Do better and pay attention to what I have said. Try to get along and live peacefully with each other. Now I pray that God, who gives love and peace, will be with you. Give each other a warm greeting. All God`s people send their greetings. I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will bless you and be kind to you! May God bless you with his love, and may the Holy Spirit join all your hearts together’.
Prayer: May Your grace, Lord Jesus, Your love, Father God, and Your deep friendship, Holy Spirit, be with me and flow through me today as I connect with those people around me. Amen.
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