Thursday, January 11, 2018
Grace and Mercy
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
The depths of God’s love are revealed in grace and mercy. Paul wants the Ephesian church to grasp what it is that Jesus has truly done for them, and only in this way can they appreciate the gifts and respond appropriately. God has reached out to all of humanity through prevenient grace, touching us when we didn’t want to be touched. But this is an expression of the love of God, a love that never gives up. Mercy is shown when we respond to grace through faith. Chrysostom puts it this way, “So that you may not be elated by the magnitude of these benefits, see how Paul puts you in your place. For ‘by grace you are saved,’ he says, ‘through faith.’ Then, so as to do no injury to free will, he allots a role to us, then takes it away again, saying ‘and this not of ourselves.’ Even faith, he says, is not from us. For if the Lord had not come, if he had not called us, how should we have been able to believe? ‘For how,’ he says, ‘shall they believe if they have not heard?’ So even the act of faith is not self-initiated. It is, he says, ‘the gift of God.’ (Homily on Ephesians 4.2.8)
It is in response to God’s holy love, experienced in grace and mercy, that we become participants in Jesus’ mission. We do good works because we are overwhelmed by God’s love.
If we become participants in God’s mission in the world, then we also become participants in God’s acts of grace and mercy which is extended to others. We should never forget that we are but sinners, saved by grace. We are entirely unworthy of that which we have received as a free gift from God.
The church is to actively engage in the mission of God by extending grace and mercy to those who do not know Christ. Sadly, the world thinks that the church is judgmental and unforgiving. This may have been the case in Ephesus, we don’t know, but Paul wanted to make sure that the congregation understood that they had received a precious gift and not to take it for granted. We are to reach out and love others the same way that God reached out and loved us.
What would it mean for us to extend grace to the sinner? That includes the drug user, the alcoholic, the adulterer, etc. It’s not pretty, because sin never is, but God’s grace has always reached into the dark corners of this world and brought the light of Christ. We are the hands and feet of Christ in this world and we are challenged to move in grace and show mercy where none is deserved. Sometimes that troubles our souls, but as we participate in this mission of God, we will personally experience the depths of God’s love. The more we extend grace and mercy, the more we grow in grace and mercy.
The church is to be a vessel where the grace and mercy of God overflows into communities and neighborhoods who need Christ.
Lord, I know I cannot grasp the depth of your love, but I am grateful. Please, help me participate with you in your mission. Amen.