This is Juan. I walked by him today while I was downtown and I asked him what he’s up to today, and he said, “Just tryin’ to find a way to eat man.” Then he asked me if I had any change. I gave him the change I had in my pocket. Some people make a commitment not to give money to guys like Juan because they are afraid they’ll use it for drugs or alcohol. I normally feel that way too, but today when I encountered Juan (who was alone on a crowded street), I was reminded that Jesus gave much more to me, and he ‘knew’ I would waste much of it on things that brought death to my soul. So I thought to myself, “I’ll trust Juan with 89 cents and hope he puts it towards food. If not, it’s on him.”
The Reformers in the 16th century speak of ‘common grace’, and by that they were speaking of God’s generosity and love that every human experiences. The sun rises and shines (that is if you don’t live in Portland) on the just and the unjust. Our bodies eventually fall asleep and rejuvenate no matter how harsh a situation one is in, or how hard junior highers try to stay up to pull an all nighter!
Acts of grace are offered to those who are less fortunate every day. Hospitals were started by church members who had a heart to take care of the sick among them. Cities have social services that provide for those in need; mass transit, food stamps, libraries, school programs, minimum wage, etc. Now, in many cases, this help isn’t enough to bridge the gap of disparity that is out there in our culture, but none the less, it’s common grace, open to all, whether they want it or not.
This got me thinking about Christianity in our day. Often times in Christian circles, there is so much time spent talking about the other grace, called ‘special’ grace, grace that leads to salvation in the Christian worldview. Within this discussion, there are arguments between Christians and those who are proud not to be Christians, and the ‘special’ grace that Christians desire the whole world to know is never known because ‘common’ grace is not so common in these discussions. At times, it even seems that the majority of common grace has been relegated to the city and state to take care of. For many, it doesn’t even cross their mind that common grace in debates and disagreements may be a way to display the product, or fruit of ‘special’ grace.
We all need grace. We’ve all received grace. God has commonly allowed every human to experience a certain amount of grace, but as a Christian, ‘special’ grace, grace to see that we are not our own gods and cannot atone for our shortcomings no matter how good we try to be, is a grace that I desire all to experience. But many are not receiving it, and frankly, many do not want to bear the fruit of those who claim to have experienced this ‘special’ grace that opens our eyes to who Jesus is, because there isn’t much common grace coming out of them.
This is a challenge I’ve been giving, and I guess I’m extending the challenge to those who are up for it, to extend more common grace, undeserved grace. Offer grace to those who don’t deserve it. Give generously not because it’s a good investment, but because it’s the right thing to do. Tip better, especially if you’re gonna throw out the “Christian” card. More common grace around the common table of fellowship these days would do a body good, not to mention, it would be displaying the beautiful God who’s idea was common grace that leads to ‘special’ grace.
So next time the theological topic of common grace vs. special grace comes up, be a doer of grace, not just a speaker of it.