Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


The Dance of Grace

I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up. As I recall, that was somewhere between my desire to be an Indian Princess and a bird nest reconstruction specialist. Even at a very young age I could see that it was far too easy for baby birds to fall out of their nests.

I had a music box with a twirling ballerina on top. Her arms floated as if in flight; her long legs were balanced on tiny feet—around and around, I watched her for hours. Ballet dancers make the most difficult technical movements seem natural and graceful, even if only perched on a child’s music box.

The concept of grace has a long history within the Christian tradition. In theological terms, grace is described as “God’s unmerited favor.” 

For believers, grace is also understood as a way of treating others. Since God gives grace freely, we ought to freely extend grace towards one another. But what about people like me who are by nature clumsy and lacking in balance? For some of us, extending grace can feel incredibly awkward.  We are the proverbial “dancer with two left feet. “

Nothing is as stunning or hope-giving as our personal experience of God’s grace. And nothing is more glorious. Theologian Jonathon Edwards wrote, “Grace is but Glory begun, and Glory is but Grace perfected.” Edwards correctly saw the cross as the ultimate proof of God’s love for mankind.

Scripture tells us that we’re unworthy of God’s favor; we cannot earn it. However, what we cannot earn, we also cannot lose. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he made this astounding proclamation: “God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, He died for us.”

Once we grasp that reality, only determined and deliberate disobedience can keep us from forwarding unmerited kindness to others. If they deserved our favor, it wouldn’t be grace.  

When others sin and we refuse to offer them forgiveness, kindness, and encouragement, we step outside the perfect will of God. If we can’t do better than that, what’s the point of Christian living?

Jesus told an important story about grace in Matthew 18:21-35. In this parable a servant is forgiven of an insurmountable debt owed to the king. But rather than taking the grace he was shown and offering it to others, the servant sought out a man who owed him a small amount of money. The servant attempted to choke the man until he paid his debt.

Upon hearing of his servant's lack of grace, the king had him thrown in prison until he paid off everything he owed. Jesus concludes, "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

Evangelist Charles Spurgeon said this:

Don’t buy the lie that cultivating condemnation and wallowing in your shame is somehow pleasing to God, or that a constant, low-grade guilt will somehow promote holiness and spiritual maturity. It’s just the opposite! God is glorified when we believe with all our hearts that those who trust in Christ can never be condemned.

It’s only when we receive his free gift of grace and live in the good of total forgiveness that we’re able to turn from the old, sinful way of living and walk in grace-motivated obedience.

The grace-full life of Christ is the intended goal for those who claim to follow him. Like ballerinas, we must practice the steps. Perhaps the people who have stepped on our toes are the people who can best teach us how to dance.