One of the most commonly heard words in our religious life is “grace.” That is because this little word expresses an idea that underlies nearly everything we believe. Other religions emphasize submission, love, discipline, good works, honor, justice, even fear. Christianity teaches the virtues of all of these, but it also emphasizes almost above all other concepts that of grace. What is this grace?
Grace is the favor of God, a favor He is ready to extend to all men. This favor is compounded of love, mercy, freedom, strength, generosity and acceptance. Its greastest expression is found in God’s gift to man of His Son, Jesus Christ. Through this gift, if we will but freely choose to accept it, God offers us faith, strength, salvation and eternal life.
A large measure of grace is given to us freely even prior to our knowing God. This bestowed grace is an advanced installment, so to speak, enabling us to accept God when He is presented to us, predisposing us to want God. If it were not for this grace (which the theologians call prevenient grace), given by God though not requested by us, we could not even turn to God.
But there is a further and unlimited reservoir of grace, of God’s strengthening favor, which we receive only when we seek it and ask for it (the theologians call this concomitant or assisting grace.) This grace may be thought of as something like electricity in a wire. It is always there but it is active and useful only if we choose to use it, only if we “plug into” it. Otherwise it is passive.
So with God’s grace. It is always there, always available to every human being -- if we choose to reach out and ask for it and then allow it to flow into and operate in us. The given grace makes it possible for us to believe in God and in His Son. The offered and requested graces makes it possible for us to love good and hate evil, to repent of our sins and ask forgiveness, to do good works, to believe in and receive life eternal.
Grace is available to us Anglican Christians through our Baptism, our Confirmation, our receiving the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Holy Communion, through other Sacraments, and through prayer, among others. What a rich gift, always there for the asking and the taking!