From: The Case for Grace
God’s grace is the sole basis for both new life and spiritual vitality. (Stanley Grenz)
Defining grace can be as simple as one declarative sentence: “Grace is the favor shown by God to sinners.” From there, it can be expounded upon in volumes of theological treatises, but at its core it is an unmerited and unconditional gift of God’s love that we can never earn or deserve.
Grace enables us to respond to God, enfolds us into his family, and empowers us to change. Theologian Thomas C. Oden said grace is necessary “to know truth, avoid sin, act well, pray fittingly, desire salvation, begin to have faith and persevere in faith.” Grace, he said, is nothing less than “the motivating power of the Christian life.”
Definitions are important, but this is not a textbook on grace. Instead, it is a collection of stories that illustrate the power of God to revolutionize human lives – to turn a homeless junkie into an ordained pastor; an adulterer into a marriage counselor; a reckless rebel into a selfless servant of God; and a mass murderer into a pardoned saint.
“Our past sins are not only forgiven (through Christ),” said Charles Colson, “but we are transformed to live a new life with God’s power and grace.” Said Philip Yancey, “We can never sink so far that God’s grace will not reach us. At the same time, grace does not leave us there. It raises us to new heights.”
This book describes a very personal journey for me, spawned by a crisis with my father, which sent me on a lifelong quest to solve the riddle of grace. Along the way, I found the undeniable evidence of grace in the life of a Korean orphan, shivering under straw in a foxhole; in a teenage addict in Amarillo, who didn’t care whether his next injection would kill him; in a homeless felon in Las Vegas, scouring dumpsters for scraps of pizza crust; in a humiliated pastor in South Carolina, unmasked for his blatant hypocrisy; in the famous preacher’s son who was living a wasted and vapid life in Boston; and in a Cambodian man who fled the Khmer Rouge, only to find his life intertwined with a notorious war criminal.
Each story contributes a piece to the grace puzzle, showing how grace goes beyond forgiveness to acceptance and even adoption by God; how it restores hope when none is left; how it extends to the most heinous circumstances; and how it allows us to forgive those who caused our most intimate wounds – and even to forgive ourselves. In other words, insights that all of us need.
As Christianity is unique among world religions, so is the grace Christ offers. Sometimes to understand grace we need to see it described rather than merely defined. After all, the Bible is one grand narrative about grace; when Jesus wanted his followers to fully feel the emotional impact of grace, he spun a parable about a Prodigal Son. “Jesus talked a lot about grace, but mainly through stories,” said Yancey.
So here are stories for you – true accounts of people whose transformation and renewal are so radical that they seem to be best explained as the work of a gracious God. Through them, I trust you will see your story playing out as well.