Has there ever been a time in history when people have been more troubled about the human condition? Every generation has had its own troubles, for sure, but, with our instant access through the media to world events, we are now able to grasp the full extent of brokenness of the world as never before. Escalating economic problems, the spread of HIV/AIDS, racism, tribalism, terrorism, religious persecution, the breakdown of the family, corporate greed – the list goes on and on and on.
Our world is desperate for grace, for at just about every turn in life, all you and I meet is “ungrace.” How often in a given week do we feel we don’t measure up, either at school, at home, or at work? How many times has someone put us down and made us feel small? How often are we reminded that we are not as pretty, not as smart, not as well off, or not as good an athlete as someone else?
Grace is one of the core convictions of the Christian faith which sets it apart from all other religions of the world. In the Bible Jesus is said to have been full of two things. Do you know what they are? Grace and truth (John 1:14). Grace without truth is permissive and fuzzy, and truth without grace is harsh and legalistic. But grace and truth held together in love is a winning combination, and Jesus was able to stand for truth while extending grace to everyone with whom He came in contact.
Philip Yancey wrote that several years ago Bill Moyers made a documentary on the hymn "Amazing Grace" that included a scene filmed in Wembley Stadium in London. Various musical groups, mostly rock bands, had gathered together in celebration of the changes in South Africa. For some reason the promoters had scheduled the opera singer, Jesse Norman, as the closing act. The film cut back and forth between scenes of the unruly crowd in the stadium and Jesse Norman being interviewed about the meaning of the song for her. Finally, the time came for her to sing. A single circle of light follows Norman, a beautiful African-American woman wearing a flowing African dashiki, as she walked across the stage. No backup band, no musical instruments, just Jesse.
The crowd stirred. Few people recognized the opera star. One person yelled for more Guns 'n' Roses. Others took up the cry, and the scene began to get ugly. Suddenly, Jesse began to sing a Capella the words of "Amazing Grace," and a remarkable thing happened in Wembley Stadium. Several thousand raucous fans fell silent before her aria of grace. By the time she reached the second verse, the singer had the crowd in her hands. And by the time she reached the third verse, several thousand people in the crowd began to sing along, reaching back into nearly lost memories for the words they had heard long ago. Later, Jesse confessed she had no idea what power had descended on Wembley Stadium that night. I think I know.
The world hungers for grace, and when grace descends, the world falls silent before it. May the body of Christ desperately be known throughout our communities and the world as a family of God growing in His grace.
Grace and peace,