I PAINTED THIS sunrise Acrylic of the pond in front of our home in Rosemount, MN in June.

I chose it for today’s Thought—‘Grace’—because I see here the difficulty of separating the ‘fountain’ from the ‘pond’ in the full ‘water feature’.  


The Question

I POSED THIS thought to Marj over breakfast the other day: If someone asked you; how would you define the difference between ‘love’ and ‘grace’?   After a few seconds she responded: “I would have to think about that.” Excellent answer! Where does one even start to answer such a question?  Both words are familiar to us. ‘Grace’ may more often be associated with church or legal documents. But ‘love’, in some context, is with us every day. Question: So, why bother asking in the first place? Answer: Because, …

That week, I had picked up Philip Yancey’s 1997 book What’s so Amazing About GRACE?  I first read, in 1998 then again in 2008 and 2014.  I wanted to review his thoughts on ‘grace’.  I hope I ‘ve grown in my understanding during each gap between my reading of books. All this to say that I was uncomfortable with one thought Yancey expressed… ‘the most important word in the Bible is ‘grace’’.  At least on the surface, that did not fit with my vote for first choice—‘love’.  Which is it? Is there a difference?

The Debate

“DURING A BRITISH conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, was unique to the Christian faith.  They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation?  Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form.  Resurrection?  Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.  The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room.  “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions.  Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

“After some discussion, the conferees had to agree.  The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity.  The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval.  Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.” [1]

The Presence

I FOUND IT INTERESTING that to make the case as to why ‘grace’ was touted as “Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions” (or, the most important word in the bible) it was necessary to connect ‘grace’ with “God’s unconditional love”.  Which comes first: ‘love’ or ‘grace’?  Is this something like the chicken or egg question?  Defining these two biblical words may help. My current definitions are:

The Definitions?

LOVE’ IS TO WILL or promote the good of others. We love something or someone when we promote its good for its own sake. ‘Love’ seeks the good of what is loved. ‘Love’ is born of an earnest contemplation of the object (person) loved. And ‘love’ follows knowledge. “…God is ‘love’” 1 John 4:8

GRACE’ IS GOD ACTING in our life to do what we cannot do on our own.  ‘Grace’ is not opposed to effort, but to earning.  Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. ‘Grace’ is not just about forgiveness.  His ‘Grace’ is what we live by, and the human system won’t work without it.  Followers of Jesus use grace like a 747 jet burns fuel on takeoff![2]

The Summary

SO, HOW WOULD I answer my question to Marj concerning defining the difference between ‘love’ and ‘grace’?  My answer is a work in progress.  I would not presume to seriously question Godly scholars like Philip Yancey or C. S. Lewis on any topic.  I respect both men and the work of the Spirit through their lives.  I do find it difficult to separate the two ideas.  To me it will always be: ‘Love’/’Grace’ or ‘Grace’/’Love’. I find it difficult to imagine one without the other.   

To me it is divine ‘grace’ when God in ‘love’ acts in our life to accomplish what we cannot do on our own.  As we follow the ‘greatest commandment’ of Jesus (Matthew 22), the Trinity radiates ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5) to and through us into God’s creation.  God’s ‘Divine ‘Love’/’Grace’ supplies His intended results via our faithfulness, even though we may not follow perfectly.

This is the first and greatest commandment  Matthew 22:38

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  2 Corinthians 12:9

[1] What’s So Amazing About GRACE by Philip D. Yancey, 1997  p. 45

[2] These ‘definitions’ are drawn together from various sources in my reading including Thomas Aquinas and  the late Dallas Willard being primary

4 thoughts on “Grace

  1. What a great question. Could it be that Love is an attitude and Grace is an action? Love is why and Grace is what God does for us? Hmmm. This is worth contemplating for a long time. Thank you for the food for thought.


  2. Thanks Pastor Jim. I do follow your paintings and commentary. This
    painting gives me a lot to think about. God has given you talents
    to use faithfully. Thanks so much. Lois


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