Grace and Gratitude, Issue 114
July 18, 2017 by Presbyterian Foundation
The necessary pairing of grace and gratitude is often skewed by focusing on the character and forms of gratitude while settling for a generic understanding of grace. God’s loving favor is simply assumed while we concentrate on the proper response: stewardship of time, talents, and (of course) treasure. The result is placing ourselves at the center of the action while relegating God to a supporting role, a necessary presupposition.
What is true of us as individuals is even truer of us as a church. Congregations, presbyteries and denominational structures expend time, talent, and treasure on their own goals, plans, and programs, confident that a benevolent God will bless their efforts.
Nonspecific, generalized understandings of grace lead to weak forms of gratitude. Karl Barth notes that “we have to give particular emphasis to the fact that through grace the church lives by grace, and to that extent it is the locus of true religion.” To that extent – which is to say that a church that takes grace for granted rather than living by grace will be a church that fails to live truthfully.
Scripture rarely speaks of grace without grounding it in specific acts of God, or specific attributes of God’s relationship to creation: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth,” “we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus,” “that is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace,” “but if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace,” “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” “grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift,” and on and on throughout the Bible.
The word grace appears 113 times in the New Testament, portraying a broad landscape of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Apart from this “particular emphasis to the fact that through grace the church lives by grace,” gratitude is bound to be narrow, often constricted to grudging duty.
Therefore, let us be grateful for a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and let us then offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28)
Featured Ministry: International Museum of the Reformation
This year’s Reformation Day (October 31) marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting his 95 Theses in Wittenberg. The Reformation movement is bigger than just that act, though. One of the best places to view that wider picture is at the International Museum of the Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland. Started with help from U.S. Presbyterians, the museum is a resource to the whole Reformed family. Learn more about the museum and its Reformation 500 programs.
500 years ago, Martin Luther published his 95 Theses, an act many credit as the start of the Reformation. How does that history inform our Church today?