Ease on Down
The irony of the tardiness of this post is not lost on me. Delayed by tornadic activity, if this post was a bill to be paid, I would have asked for a “grace period” for this post on…well, grace. Life sometimes has an interesting sense of humor.
The weather has abated so we will continue our discussion on classical grace. We left off discussing Nicholas of Cusa who proposed something he termed “learned ignorance”. According to Nicholas, who was also known as Nicolaus von Kues, all knowledge came from “the One”, “the Good’. God, according to Nicholas, came before that so it was impossible for a mere human to truly know God. Nicholas believed that one should use reason to understand this ignorance and that we only knew of God what we could through the “learned ignorance”. Could the same be said of grace?
I proposed several days ago at the start of this particular series that we approach grace from four different perspectives – Classical, Empirical, Subjective, and Axiomatic. First, though, we should define “grace”. A major focus of John Wesley and early Methodists was the process by which believers lived out the life of grace. They called this process the way of salvation. It was a lifelong process with a marked beginning and guided by the purpose of achieving wholesome godly maturity. Is grace only for such believers?
The Christian belief system has various definitions of grace and most do seem to be the property of the believer. In this week of a classical discussion of grace, I would remiss if I did not note that in the late fourteenth century Spenser wrote of three Latin sister-goddesses, one being “Gratiae”, the “bestower of beauty and charm”. In the twelfth century the words from which we derive the term “grace” went from meaning a simple thank you in the early fourteenth century to something said before meals to salvation in the late fifteenth century.
At its purest, “grace” means movement, beautiful movement. Tomorrow we will delve more into the spiritual connotations and denotations of this concept of grace but for today, let’s focus on it meaning movement and the elegance it can create.
That is the purpose of this series, after all. Grace when lived gives our very souls elegance and clarifies the meaning of our being. The trick is to offer it. You see, we need to extend grace when we least would like to do so. In Hebrew and Greek the word “grace” can be defined quite simply as “extending forward”. Specifically, the Greek word is “charis” which means kindness. In Hebrew, the word for grace is “chen”, which derives from a shoresh or root word meaning “favor, mercy, kindness, graciousness.”. These are not actions we do for ourselves although we will discuss more on that later in the series. These are actions we extend to others.
The Oxford Dictionaries define grace in its action sense or verb form as “to do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence.” Synonyms include such words as enhance, distinguish, or honor. These are also actions we extend to others. Grace is, in short, an action we share… or should share.
While we are easing on down the road of life, how often do we extend grace to others? Do we extend a kindness to those who have angered us? How we react to life exemplifies what we believe. Our actions are a mirror of our thoughts, our beliefs, those doctrines we hold to be true. It costs us nothing except perhaps ego to offer grace to another. It can be the easiest thing you do today, if you just ease on down that road you are on with kindness towards others.