What Does the Bible Say About Grace: A Reflection on Extravagant Love and a Preteen Friendship
I got a good lesson in what the Bible says about grace recently courtesy of a tumultuous relationship my preteen daughter, Avery, has with a friend I’ll call Brianne.
Avery’s Story about Grace
Brianne had been a rotten friend to Avery—more of an enemy, really, though they sat at the same lunch table. She told lies, spread rumors, and more than once, with scathing looks and snarky jabs, accused Avery of “stealing” a mutual acquaintance. Avery often came home from school sobbing about their verbal warplay.
But on Valentine’s Day, Avery surprised me by wrapping a pretty package, purchased with her own meager funds, for Brianne.
“She’s going through a really hard time at home,” Avery shrugged when I asked her why. “It hurts when she does those things, but I can’t take it personally. Brianne needs someone to be angry with. And maybe if I love her hard enough, she can focus on the good.”
Avery extended grace to Brianne—undeserved favor and kindness—both in her gift and in her forgiveness. In doing so, she taught me a powerful lesson about the grace Jesus offers us in eternal salvation, despite our sinful ways and flawed hearts.
What is Grace in the Bible?
The word “grace” is translated from the Hebrew chen and Greek charis to mean favor, acceptance, loving-kindness, and goodwill. In the Bible, it is used most often to describe the mysterious, undeserving love extended to us by God through extravagant, unmerited forgiveness, salvation, and protection.
As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (NIV). In Romans 11:6, he writes, “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” And in Galatians 2:21, he writes, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
And as the apostle John wrote of Christ Jesus, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Grace fills our Lord to overflowing and extends to us in His great love. We cannot work hard enough to earn grace and even deserve it—it is a supremely generous, fully unwarranted gift of purity, sacrifice, and favor.
What Does It Mean to Have Grace?
God shows us grace when He extends us love, forgiveness, and eternal life in spite of our wrongs and shortcomings. While we cannot offer eternal life to another, in honor of the grace we have experienced, God expects us to show love, mercy, compassion, and kindness to those around us—even (and especially) to our enemies, as my daughter did with her “frenemy,” Brianne.
As Jesus instructs his disciples, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7) and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). And as the apostle Paul urges early Christians in Ephesus, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
What the Grace of God Can Do
While our salvation is the most extravagant expression of God’s grace, God’s grace can have meaningful impact on our earthly life, too.
God’s grace gives us tremendous freedom. We can live unencumbered by the heavy weight of our transgressions. His grace also gives us spiritual gifts, pays our sin-debt, and transforms our hearts and lives. Indeed, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” This theme is echoed also in Ezekiel 11:19” “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”
It makes us brand new, free and forgiven, ready to embrace the beauty and the glory of a life lived fully in the Lord.
Examples of Grace in the Bible
Beyond the grace each of us receives when we accept Jesus as our savior, the Bible also contains a number of notable examples of grace.
In the Old Testament, God allows His exiled people to enter the Promised Land in spite of their doubts and disobedience (Joshua 3-4). He allows King David a second chance at life and love after David had his best friend killed so he could marry that friend’s wife (2 Samuel 11-12).
Grace is love and life, even when it is not warranted.
Bible Verses About Grace and Forgiveness
The word “grace” appears in the NIV translation of the Bible 125 times, and the words “forgive,” “forgiven,” or “forgiveness” 121 times. Here are a few favorite verses:
“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.”—Psalm 130:3-4
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”—Ephesians 1:7
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”—2 Timothy 1:9
What does the Bible say about grace, then? Everything! For grace is the ultimate expression of generous love. And, as my daughter taught me in her experience loving an enemy, as followers of Christ, we are to do all we can to model that grace whenever and wherever possible.
Jessica is an award-winning Christian journalist, author, blogger, editor, and devotional writer. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. She also writes contemporary women’s fiction and is represented by Bob Hostetler of the Steve Laube Agency. Learn more about her and read her weekly faith blog, Shining the Light, at JessicaBrodie.com.
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™