Our friends who meet for worship on the corner of Alder and Clinton have certainly chosen a good name for their church: "Amazing Grace, Church of the Nazarene." God's grace is nothing less than amazing.
I'll never forget how a woman reacted when she saw my painting of the prodigal son in the arms of his father. She said, "I don't like that story." I was caught by surprise, because that is one of my favorite parables by Jesus. So I asked her why she disliked it. She answered honestly, "Because it isn't fair. The elder son had been working hard all those years and when that disgraceful, runaway rascal comes home hungry, he gets a banquet!" I agreed with her. What the father did went way beyond fairness. Grace has nothing to do with fairness.
"Did you remember," I added, "that the father also went out to his eldest son, saying, ‘Son you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.'" In the father's mind, the return of the prodigal son called for celebration.
Grace is amazing because it doesn't follow such rules as "eye for an eye" or "let the punishment fit the crime." Grace has to do with a lavish, unconditional, unmerited love. Grace is a gift to one who is totally undeserving. Grace has nothing to do with merit or earning God's favor. It is simply God offering the best to those of us who may be considered the worst.
John Newton had been an arrogant captain of an English slave ship, until he experienced an encounter with Jesus Christ. In the light of Christ, he felt convicted of sin and blessed by the promise of pardon. As he later wrote in what has become a popular hymn, " 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved, how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed." Yes, that grace is amazing, "that saved a wretch like me". After his conversion, he went into the Anglican ministry to share this good news with others.
I once shared the good news of God's grace with a tough cement worker whose wife had persuaded him to talk with me. After some time he admitted to some wrongs. When he realized that these wrongs (sins) had hurt others as well as himself, he began to wonder about forgiveness. I read to him the verse from 1 John 1:9 that assures the one who confesses his sins that all will be forgiven. He responded by saying "Am I forgiven ALL my sins?" That's what it says, and I read it again and he began to weep. "ALL forgiven?" Yes, that's amazing grace. God loves you that much.
This wonderful unconditional generosity is offered to all people without exceptions. When the Bible says "God so loved the world" it means, ALL the people of this world. I have trouble loving some people. I guess it was also difficult for God, since He went through hell on the cross to demonstrate his love for us.
We didn't deserve that sacrifice. It was amazing grace.
The Apostle Paul once wrote, "This grace was given to me for you." We are loved, to love, blessed to be a blessing. Surprise your neighbor with a touch of amazing grace! It's worth the effort.
The Rev. Randy Klassen is a retired minister of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should telephone Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org