“To love a person means to see him as God intended him to be.” Fyodor Dostoevsky
In 1997, American journalist Philip Yancey published a book called What’s so Amazing about Grace?’and it was a number one hit in both the Christian and secular world – selling 16 million copies by 2006. It is rumoured that the author was inspired to write the book after Bill Clinton asked him ‘Why do Christians hate so much?’
I am sat here planning a sermon on the classic love text in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, the passage often read at weddings about what love is and I encourage you to read it if you haven’t in some time. I have read and re-read these verses and frankly feel defeated before I finish the first sentence. How can I love like that? How is loving like that even fair? How can one love when they are abused or cheated on? How can one not keep a record of wrongs when those wrongs often shape us and define our lives? But somehow, I think that is the point, the outworking of God’s love is grace and, as Yancey writes, it is scandalous!
As I was battling with the passage, I tried to stop seeing how I wasn’t loving and start seeing those verses in terms of how God loves me. Now that changes things. Suddenly the words of that famous hymn started to resonate with my soul, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” You see Jesus’ love looks beyond the surface to the real me, to the real person underneath. Once we encounter this sort of love, how can we not be changed? Importantly how can we not love others?
So, what is grace? How does it, how can it, change our lives? The definition of the name Grace, tells us that it is an English name that means “God’s favour”. Once again, a resounding gong clamours to have us hear the truth about God’s love for us, no matter what we have done, no matter what we think or plan to do, no matter what. No matter. Full Stop! His love is so sufficient that His grace will show His favour to even me. He sees me as He intended me to be. Author and speaker Brennan Manning challenges, ‘How would it transform our lives if we saw our primary identity in life as the one Jesus loves?’
Why then did this book on grace sell so well? Is it because fundamentally, we are all searching for love – the sort of love that we deep down want to experience but have seldom seen. A love that looks beyond any material possessions, beyond any status or position we can strive for, reaches far beyond our failings and our pain, a love that sees us as God intended us to be.
Jesus’s love we are told is patient, kind, keeps no score of wrong, and ultimately “Whilst we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
God’s love is amazing – shown to us through His grace which is simply His favour for you, no matter what. Full Stop!