Many people have a say on what they think grace is, and to be totally honest, it sounds a bit complicated to understand. But is it really? Maybe it’s because kindness and forgiveness are things that catch us off guard and they are tough to understand. Well, here’s what I’ve always heard preachers and believers say to define grace: it is “unmerited favor”, or “undeserved kindness.” Sound about right? Well, for some time now, these phrases never sat well with me. But why?
I thought about this not too long ago at Bible Study, when the question was asked by our group leader: “What is grace?” Two immediate things happened after this question. First, I heard a couple people say the same phrase at the same time “unmerited favor!”, and second, a picture came to my mind (and I could say many things about what I think the word means, but I chose to listen instead). Yes, God revealed a picture to me. This picture was so quick and so simple: A kid reaching for a jar of cookies. That’s it. And that was my answer.
Later, I meditated on that picture and here’s what I’ve found: grace isn’t undeserving, or unmerited. Imagine this: the boy in the picture tried everything in his own strength and will to get that jar, but he keeps falling just short of it each time. He’s tried many different ways, unique and creative ways to get just one cookie from the jar. But nothing works. Finally, the moment he decides to give up, his dad walks in and sees that he is trying to get a cookie from the jar. His dad grabs the jar and hands it to his son, and the boy is excited and pleased. He says, “Thanks Daddy!”
Now, how is that undeserving? How is grace undeserving? The only reason we would define it that way is if we believed that God actually didn’t see value in us, or simply put, didn’t love us. The only reason the father got his son the jar of cookies was because he loved him. He was struggling to get it on his own. And what does this sound like? The law and grace. If the boy could get a cookie from the jar, he takes all the credit. It was his effort that ended up being rewarding. No help from his dad. This is the way of the law. The boy did need help though…there was no way to get that jar…he tried almost everything he could. His father felt compassion and got him what he was unable to get on his own, and he didn’t even ask for it. And guess what the son said? “Thanks Daddy!”
I’m pretty sure there was a reason why Jesus handed us what we could never attain. It’s because He loved us. What kind of father gives his child something but says, “You don’t deserve it.” If I were the child, I’d be thinking, “Uhhh…then why did you give it to me? Now I don’t even want it.” It’s a good and reassuring thing that our Father isn’t like that. Our Father loves us to death.