Ungrace tears the world apart but how sweet is the sound of grace
Ungrace tears the world apart
Economic greed and poverty
Philip Yancey in his classic book “what’s so amazing about grace” labels these things “ungrace”.
His point being that when self is ascendent it is at the expense of others.
Wether we be talking about the war in Ukraine.
The famines in Sudan and other parts of Northern Africa.
The oppression of minorities and democracy in Myarmar.
Sexual slavery in Asia and Eastern Europe.
The economic oppression and explotation of workers in the Congo lithiumn mines.
The labeling of people as bludgers or dole cheats for political ends in our society.
The blatent discrimination of cancel culture in western society, that seeks to silence all who do not enthusiastically endorse the latest humanist ideology.
Or the total control of society in places such as China and North Korea
All these things are ultimately a sign that one person or group of people is ascendent at the expense of others.
People become mere commodities, a means to an end or are seen as obstacles to what someone else wants.
The sinful desires of people causes others to suffer.
It is a very simple formula when you think about it.
Grace does not look like what much of the world looks like.
In fact it is the opposite.
The sweet sound of grace
But the sweet sound of grace is still evident in many places.
Look at the wonderful progress the nation of Rwanda has made since the genocide.
A process of reconciliation, driven by Christian Aid agencies has achieved so much is bringing a good amount of peace and growth to that nation.
Look at the aid and development programs throughout the world where whole villages are lifted out of abject poverty because organisations with a Christian heritage and world view have come in and provided education for children, sanitation for the community and helped women establish micro businesses and farmers better manage their land so that the soil and water is conserved and yields increase.
Look at the influence of the Gospel on nations such as South Korea, which is no one of the greatest missionary sending nations on earth.
Look at the ongoing efforts of Christians to eliminate slavery and indentured labour.
To bring acceptance to the marginalised.
We see that in our own society when refugees are adopted into a community, when the disabled are given meaningful work, when the single mother is helped to get on her feet.
When the former prisoner is accepted into a church community and given opportunity to rebuild their lives.
Wherever grace is demonstrated people are valued, people are loved, lives are improved and peace is promoted.
We know this to be true, but grace isn’t something that we manufacture out of our own goodness.
For the Scriptures are quite clear in this regard.
Any good that a human brings is because they are made in the image of God, not because we have some inate goodness of our own.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and everyone of us is to some extent driven by impure motives. (Romans 3:23 and Romans 3:10)
The source of Grace
Thankfully we have an external source of grace.
Because as I said in previous weeks God is by his nature a God of love.
Graciousness is the outworking of that love.
We see this truth expressed in John 1:14-18
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. 15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ ” 16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.
When we look at this passage there is something particular that stands out in verse 14.
In the English Standard Version it is translated grace and truth, in the New Living Translation it is unfailing love and faithfulness and in the New International Version as full of grace and truth.
In the oriiginal languages this expression “grace and truth” is unique to John and is his own version of a similar expression used repeatedly in the Septuiguant.
The Septuiguant is the Greek translation of the Old Testamane that was commonly used by the Jewish people and others.
It draws its meaning from Exodus 34:6-7 where the Lord revealed his Glory to Moses when he passed in front of him on the mountain proclaiming.
6 The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. 7 I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected— even children in the third and fourth generations.”
So we see the Apostle John, right at the beginning of his Gospel record where he identifies Christ as one with God and the representation of God to us, identify that Jesus is the one full of unfailing love and faithfulness or grace and truth.
John tells us that just as God is love expressed as graciousness and mercy so Christ is, because he is in fact God the source of grace.
He is God and therefore he is love.
The ultimate source of grace is not found in ourselves, it is found in Christ.
Isn’t that good news.
You don’t have to manufacture grace from within yourself, because that is impossible and I would suggest in many cases not something that you are inclinded to do.
Instead the right approach is to seek grace from the source of grace.
That is God working in you through his Holy Spirit.
Now A humble understanding of our own need must have practical results
Because we each struggle to show grace instead of ungrace.
How often does a rage quietly rise up within you when someone annoys you or does something that you find distasteful?
How often do you bite down on that urge because, “that isn’t the Christian thing to do!”
How often do you find it easy to overlook an individual because they are “less than you”.
It might be the disabled person who you are impatient with because it takes them a while to answer questiosn int he shop or explain their order clearly.
It might be the person from a lower socio- economic group who doesn’t seem to want to or know how to make the effort to improve themselves.
Or it might be that loud drunk walking down the street or the obviously mentally ill person wandering around the inner city.
Or it could be the person who is morally inferior to you because they are tailgating or cutting in and out of traffic or speeding.
After all good Christian folks like us don’t have those attitudes or do those things do we?
Or perhaps there is something in our life that is hidden and not talked about.
A habitual sin.
Ungrace is alive and well in our lives because we don’t admit to these things, or we harbour these attitudes, or display these behaviours.
But the reality is a humble understanding of our own needs must have practical results if grace is really at work in our lives.
14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
If we are to overcome in a world full of ungrace then here is the secret.
The supply of grace is unrestricted, the only condition being a willingness to receive it, a sense of its indispensability.
Ungrace tears the world apart, but the sound of grace is sweet.
If we are to be the sound of grace firstly to ourselves and those around us and then to our community and beyond there has to be this absolute conviction that we are just as much in need of grace as everyone else.
The supply is unrestricted, our need is great, that of the world just as much so.
Grace is indispensible in our life.
Let’s make it so present that others too see that grace is a gift of God to a world in desperate need.