Grace announces to generations of people who have been born privileged that their ethnicity doesn’t matter. In fact, their ethnicity could actually get in the way of their faith. That’s what Jesus said when he was approached by Nicodemus:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)
Paul stated this also when he challenged the Galatians:
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Gal. 2:15–16)
These statements were, no doubt, shocking to the original hearers. And such words are shocking to our own ears today. Whenever we want to shut out a certain people group, that’s exactly where grace welcomes people in. Just when we try to close the front door, grace swings open every window, door, nook, and cranny and proclaims: come on in!
Grace was the reason God sent his only begotten Son to be “born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4–5). Grace was why the Son of God gave himself up for us to be hung on a Roman cross, not while we were his friends but “while we were enemies” (Rom. 5:10). Grace is what “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5).
Grace is God’s disposition toward all of those who deserve the exact opposite. We don’t deserve grace, we can’t earn grace, and yet this is what God offers us when we receive his Son.
We live in a strange time where it’s normal for people to reinvent themselves every day. We get to rewrite our own scripts and market ourselves in entirely new ways to grow our social media following. We’re always trying to prove to the world—and ourselves—that we’re not the same as we once were, that we’re making progress, or that we have finally arrived.
And when we talk to our friends, we always paint ourselves as the hero and others as the villains. It’s always our cause that’s right; it’s someone else who is doing it wrong. These are the stories we tell ourselves so we can sleep at night, so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can take another step forward. But none of this is grace.
Grace is not an extreme makeover. Grace is not therapy. Grace is not a shot of espresso for a pick-me-up. Grace is not something we can make happen by following a certain number of steps. Grace is not possible by following a how-to-manual. Grace does not happen because we conjure it. No, grace is something completely different. It’s disruptive.
Grace happens when we least expect it. The woman on a train hears words of grace as she makes her way into the city. The boy who left the faith in high school hears good news at college. The girl who grew up in church but was sexually abused hears grace by accident while talking to an addict. It’s all out of whack, but that’s when grace happens. Grace is what God does. Grace is who God is.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound That saved, a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see. (John Newton, “Amazing Grace,” 1779)
Grace disrupts all of our expectations. It challenges our assumptions; it contradicts us. The grace of God in Jesus Christ is nothing like what we want—but it is exactly what we need.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13)
Grace cannot be tamed. To disrupt is to be “disorderly” and “rowdy.” Most of the time—if not all of the time—grace throws off or mixes up the ordinary way of things. Grace doesn’t come to you because you were born into a good family. It doesn’t come to you because of your race or ethnicity.
Grace doesn’t come to you because you worked harder than everybody else. It doesn’t come to you because you desired it. Grace comes to you from God, by God, and through God.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14).