Giving Grace

The Bible is littered with boat stories: Noah and the ark, Jonah and the whale, Jesus and his disciples, and one of my favorites: Paul and the shipwreck.

Grab a cup of coffee. It’s a long story.

Against all advice, Paul goes to Jerusalem, causes a riot, and after a series of convoluted legal proceedings to a delayed trial, is put onto a slow boat to Rome because he insists on appealing his case to Caesar. Many weeks later, the boat’s captain considers sailing to the west coast of Crete to harbor out the winter. Paul advises they stay put. The boat’s owner orders otherwise, and the boat is soon caught in a storm that carries them beyond all hope of being saved. (Acts 27)

That’s when Paul swings into action. He stands up and says: “Had you listened to me, and not sailed from Crete; you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. An angel from God has told me that the ship will sink, and you will all live to tell the story.  So don’t lose heart. God will get us out of this. By the way, we will be shipwrecked.”

Whatever you might think about Paul’s leadership style, the boat followed his lead. The Roman guard ditched the lifeboat, passengers and crew ate up the rations, and when the ship wrecked on a sandbar, the prisoners were cut free, and 276 persons either swam or floated on planks of the ship to shore, because God was working in each of their lives for the good of them all.

Grace works that way.

Grace names our failures, and points the way to live well. Grace forgives us our sins, so we are free to live right with God. Grace clarifies our differences, and leads us to embrace God’s truth. Grace tells the truth of our present, and fixes us on the day God gets the last say. Grace endures the dangers, prospers our toils, gets us out of the snares, and leads us safely home. Grace listens to a noisy world, and speaks “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” (Acts 10:36)

Grace is the gift Christ gives us to give.

The giving of grace begins with a heart given over the truth that when we receive Christ to live in us, “there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, there is nothing we can to make God love us less.” (Phillip Yancey) When we live from the approval God has given us in Christ, our heart is free to give the grace that heals hearts and changes lives without any “ifs, ands, or buts.” God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. God sends us to do the same.