Grace is Complicated

May 30, 2017

“The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4: 7-11

Grace is sweet. Grace is lifesaving. Grace is amazing. While these are all accurate ways of describing grace, I would also add that grace is complicated. Maybe grace is also like an heirloom pearl ring passed down to you when you are young. An heirloom is a curious beauty, but impractical and even uninteresting when you are first gifted it. It isn’t until your hand grows big enough, your aesthetic for classical beauty evolves, and your affection deepened for all the family who cherished it before you, that you truly understand the gravity of the gift. And such is grace. Grace doesn’t just save us to settle a bad debt to our Creator. It is a mysterious gift connecting us to God and each other. Grace involves our whole selves, including our talents, quirks, screws-ups and even rages. The totality of who we are is used by God to not only reveal how deeply loved we are, but to better the world around us. This is grace. The parts of ourselves that seem uncomfortable or complicated are actually the parts God relishes to use in serving the needs of others. We might feel ugly or marred, but with a little polishing and care, we can be used to unite and bind together others who are also feeling ugly or marred.

I am divorced. When I first began sharing that life-changing event with others 6 years ago, I felt raw, alone, and vulnerable. But an odd thing happened in the midst of that pain. I found the more I shared my brokenness and neediness with others, especially as a writer, the more I healed and was able to usher the healing of others. What started as an isolating and searing grief actually connected me to the suffering of others. That which I thought would destroy me became that which braided me to God and to others. Shared pain and shared gifts became sacramental and “You too?” one of the holiest phrases uttered by new friends.

Just as our grace is complicated, so is our world. Many of our global leaders are sinister and corrosive. Our communities, both geographical and online, are increasingly divisive and dissentious. But we, the bearers of complicated grace, are called to something bigger than ourselves. We, as the writer of 1 Peter tells us, are to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serving one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” This is not the time for silence. This is not the time for hiding. The “multitude of sin” that surrounds us is supernaturally counteracted by the constant love we offer our neighbors. The world needs grace, which means it needs you. We need your gifts. We need your flaws. We need your vulnerability. We need you to take the spiritual heirlooms gifted to you by the Holy Spirit, even the ugly ones, and polish them up for such a time as this. Might the Holy Spirit be your encourager, and “You too?” be the tie that binds you to your neighbor?

About the Author
  • Beth Carroll, a recent graduate of Western Theological Seminary, is Resident Pastor of Youth and Young Adults at Hope Church in Holland, MI. She is passionate about issues of social justice, keeping up with her two teenaged children, and pop music.

What are your thoughts about this topic?
We welcome your ideas and questions about the topics considered here. If you would like to receive others' comments and respond by email, please check the box below the comment form when you submit your own comments.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

There are currently no comments. Why don't you kick things off?