"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Sunday, February 02, 2014

No worries. You have a day of grace.

  The most commonly used phrase in the library is probably, “Your books are due back in two weeks.” The next most common could be, “Oh, if your books are just one day late, there is no fine. You have a day of grace.” Meaning, the library system is excusing you for being a day late. Now, think about that for a minute. You are late with a book or books, so therefore you owe money as a penalty for being late. Even for a day. Yet, even though you messed up and didn’t live up to your potential, and should be punished by some means (i.e., paying money), you are given a day of grace. You are forgiven. You get a pass. It is like you brought them back on time.

    I worked for the Georgia State University Library for quite a number of years before I retired, then I began to work for the Henry County Library System. For all those years, I would use that term, grace, and it never sank in that this was the most practical application of the word I have ever encountered. I’ve been in church all my life, studied theology, am a licensed deacon and ordained minister, yet I had never fully realized what that term meant on a practical, day by day level. Until I worked at a Circulation desk.

  Grace is one of those “church words” that tend to scare people away who don’t know the “church words.” Words like redemption, sanctification, incarnation and the big one of righteousness. People outside the church walls don’t understand those words and they are afraid of them. Many people inside the church walls don’t understand them either. Like me. Again…kinda scary and words with more than two syllables tend to confuse me.

  In a church setting, we hear the word “grace” when we talk about the fact that God gave us grace when He sent Jesus. And why did God send Jesus? Because the human race was not living the way they should. God had set standards in the very beginning of time, but we had (almost) immediately tried to change the rules. So, we found out that we could get by with more and more misbehaving until God decided that it was time to flood the earth and start over again. And He did. But, even though Noah and his family were the ones chosen to survive because they were the most Godly people, they were still human and human nature is to not believe in God and to not obey the rules.

  So, instead of destroying everything again, God chose to use…..grace. He sent Jesus to live on earth, try to teach us how to live better, gave us new ways to obey God and how to love. The true love that only comes from God. And then, the unbelievers killed Jesus. But, you know the rest of the story. He rose from the dead, gave those who still believed the commission to keep telling the world about God and God’s love and to offer the hope that only God can give.

  According to God’s standards…We. Do. Not. Deserve. To. Live. We lie, cheat, steal, kill and break all the rules and even go beyond the imaginable. But, God chose to not give us what we deserve. He gave us…..grace. He forgives us if we recognize our behavior and ask forgiveness. And then, we receive…..God’s grace, which is much bigger than that twenty cent fine.

  When this concept first clicked in my head one day at work, it amazed me that one of those “church words” finally made sense. So, I hope this makes a little sense to you and you can begin to fully understand what grace is. Being forgiven when we don’t deserve it. And God does it for us every single day.

  And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.