Jeremiah 29:10-14, I Peter 4:10-11
October 8, 2017
I am intrigued by this description of us in Peter’s letter. He tells us we are “Stewards of God’s varied Grace.” The old King James says “Manifold Grace.” The New International Version says “Grace in all it’s forms.”
Now, just think about that word for a moment. What does the word “Grace” mean? I’ve said it before. In it’s classic definition, “Grace” is “Unmerited Favor.” In other words, you give someone kindness, consideration, respect(!), even love, all those things, whether they “merit” it, whether they “deserve” it, or not. That is Grace.
Of course, there is a classic Christian use of this word, too. It is equivalent or closely tied to our salvation in Jesus Christ. “By Grace we have been saved through faith, this is not of our own doing, it is a gift of God. It is not because of ‘works,’ lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) It’s that same “unmerited” – “undeserved” – “favor” of God when he forgives us. And in this passage, we are called to give a similar grace, “in all it’s forms.”
As we think about that word for today, may we know that we are “Stewards” of it. And may we know that “stewardship” is indeed something that means more than just being “financial stewards.” “Stewardship of God’s varied Grace” is about more than the classical “Three T’s of Stewardship” – that is our Time, our Talents, and our Treasure. But it’s also about how we live and how we love one another. And it’s about what the world sees in us!
Simply put, because of God’s grace to us, we are to be gracious. Think about that. We are to be “Gracious people.” Think about yourself. Are you a “gracious” person? What does that look like? As I said, it means we are to be people who give kindness, love, and respect to others, whether they deserve it or not. And let me ask you, is that easy? No it’s not!
Well, God calls us to be such people. And I think one of the reasons he does is that “gracious people” are compelling. Isn’t that true? People want to be around them. If you’re around a “gracious person,” you don’t have to “work at” receiving their grace. (Not that you should abuse that!) You always know they are on your side. And of course that’s what we believe about God! We always know he’s on our side. And gracious people reflect that “grace of God.”
That’s the other thing about this is, you see. By our grace we demonstrate God’s grace. So, if we expect people to respond to God’s grace, we need to be people of Grace – God’s varied Grace – in all it’s forms.
So then, as Peter says here, when you are being a person who gives love, respect, and kindness – no matter whether or not a person earns it or deserves it – you are being a “steward of “God’s varied Grace.” And when you do that, other people are likely to be in a better mindset to receive the Grace of God! That’s because, as I’ve also said before, when you show grace to each other, other people will see that! And that will be compelling! That will be something they want, too. Because that grace is something they’re not getting in the world around them!
On the other hand, if you bicker and argue with one another, that will be the opposite of “compelling.” I suppose the opposite of “compelling” is repelling. And people will respond to that as well – only it will be a negative response! “Why should I want to be around that?” “I can get that kind of thing anywhere!”
It’s as simple as that. And when we see the “varied grace” as being “of God,” and we see it as the precious gift that it is, and we choose to be the people of Grace, then that’s part of being “the Light of the World,” as Jesus said we are.
We talk Stewardship this time of year, and of course that means money. And as the Stewardship Committee will tell us, it also means the three T’s – our Time, our Talents, and our Treasure. But Peter would tell us that it also means this “Varied Grace of God” – without which the other three will not be effective! The church is not just about budgets – it is, of course. But the church is primarily about God’s Grace – his salvation to the world. And that Grace comes through our every effort. It comes through being the “Light to the World.” And that comes though taking seriously this business of being “Stewards of God’s Grace” – Grace “in all it’s forms!”
As you think about all that, let me remind you of Paul’s words to the Church in Colossae. These are good things to think about as we consider being “Stewards of God’s Grace in all it’s forms.”
Here’s what Paul writes. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Colossians 3)
Those are great thoughts! And let me close by saying this. The “attitude of Grace” does not come naturally! Paul told the Colossians that! Our natural reactions are ones that can be quite “un-gracious.” That’s why he said “Put on” these things! Take them on yourself. It might not be easy at first. We think, “Hey! Why should I not react the way I feel?!” Well, we shouldn’t because feelings can be a problem. Because the way we feel can be “reactive.” If someone makes us mad, we are prone to lash out first, and think later.
So, it is the “practice” of Grace that makes us “gracious people.” Let us make that decision today to be people of Grace – grace in all it’s forms. And may God shine his light through us, as we seek to be his people.
Eternal God, help us indeed to be stewards of your varied grace. Give us the strength we need to have love, compassion, and respect, whether or not it is deserved. Help us to be the light of the world you have called us to be, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. For this we pray in his name, Amen!