When was the last time someone did something for you that was totally unexpected, absolutely wonderful, and completely undeserved? For me, that was a little over one year ago. My youngest son played trombone in the University of Minnesota Marching Band. The band would be traveling with the football team to sunny Tampa, Florida, to play in the Outback Bowl. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we were so excited for our son even though we would not be sharing the experience in person. There just wasn’t room in the Vick budget to make the trip.

That is when my mom called. “You have to go,” she said, “and send me the bill.”

Wow! Totally unexpected, absolutely wonderful, and completely undeserved.

That is the definition of grace. It means to show honor and favor toward someone that has not earned it and does not deserve it. It is a powerful concept and a subversive action in a broken world. And I don’t think I am going out on a limb when I say our world is broken.

The social, political, and viral earthquakes of the past year have revealed the fault lines. The aftershocks continue to damage relationships and tear apart communities. While we look forward to gathering for family celebrations once again, we can’t help but wonder what kind of emotions may erupt. We must renegotiate friendships after witnessing the exchange of not-so-friendly-fire on social media. 

Let’s face it. We are a mess! And our solutions to these problems – revenge, retribution, blocking, canceling, shaming, and demonizing those with whom we disagree – have no chance of bringing healing or hope. What are we to do?

I believe there is only one word, one path, one direction, that can restore our communities – Grace.

In its simplest form, grace is offering someone else the benefit of the doubt. Grace means seeing someone else’s actions in the most favorable light, even when it costs you something. Grace means being willing to forgive under difficult circumstances and being willing to humbly receive forgiveness from those you perceive to be enemies. Grace means going out of your way to include someone in your community different from you and being willing to honor them by listening to their story. 

Sound too good to be true? It is if left entirely up to broken people like you and me.

That is where Jesus enters the picture. Nobody exemplifies grace more than Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was born into a broken world with people and situations just like today. He showed kindness to outcasts and offered to heal those others wouldn’t touch.

He held dinner parties with prostitutes and tax-collectors. He offered forgiveness to those who didn’t ask for it. He challenged the social norms of the day to include the most marginalized, and he ignored the temptation to wield earthly power. And finally, he would give up his own life as the ultimate gesture of God’s love for a rebellious and broken world. This is grace personified. This is God with us.

I am not worthy of this unexpected, wonderful, and undeserved grace. None of us are. But if God is willing to offer this grace to us, what would happen if we offered grace to each other?

Darrin Vick is Senior Pastor of Community of Grace Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake. He can be reached by e-mail at darrin@gracepeople.church.

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