One of my favorite authors, Phillip Yancey, asked that question in a book by the same title. Since that is one of his books that I have not yet read, I will have to provide my own answer.
Grace is amazing because it is unnatural.
Do you need evidence of that? The responses of The Food Network, Wal-Mart and other sponsors to Paula Deen’s admission of racially insensitive remarks (decades ago) was completely natural. None of us wants to be labeled as racist or bigoted, even by association. To extend grace would have put those sponsors at risk from some of their other constituents.
How about the issues brought forth in the discussion of Senate Bill 5 in Austin a few days ago? It is completely natural to accuse the pro-life crowd of being more concerned about a fetus than they are about a woman’s right to choose. It is completely natural to describe the pro-choice crowd as being callous toward the murder of innocent children.
Similarly, the Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 have given plenty of opportunity for natural and graceless responses on both sides.
It is completely natural to accuse defenders of traditional marriage of denying rights to people just because they are different. It is completely natural to accuse the homosexual community of trying to undermine the moral fabric of our nation. For either side to extend grace would risk losing the strategic political battles that are determining the laws of the land.
Our problem is that we are so natural, and therefore define grace from a natural standpoint. If we extend grace, we are giving in. We are tolerating or accepting. We are refusing to take a stand. Natural grace is weak.
Unnatural (dare we say supernatural?) grace is none of those. It sees real people with a real need of real love. It sees real brokenness and real confusion and seeks to speak the real truth without either condoning or condemning.
Supernatural grace draws from resources beyond ourselves to love people more than politics. Jesus did not die for politics. He died for people.
Oswald Chambers’ classic devotional book, “My Utmost for His Highest,” smacked me upside the head just a few days ago.
“One of the greatest proofs that you are drawing on the grace of God is that you can be totally humiliated before others without displaying even the slightest trace of anything but His grace.”
What are you and I willing to risk to show others the unnatural grace of God? Our lives matter so much to Him that He risked everything to make it possible for us to be right with Him.
2 Peter 3:9 says God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.
That, my friends, is amazing grace.
Dr. Gerry Lewis, author, blogger, church consultant, and leadership coach, serves as Executive Director of the Harvest Baptist Association headquartered in Decatur. The opinions expressed in this column are his own and may not represent the views of HBA.