Eugene Peterson’s book Eat this Book teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage from Hebrews 12: 15, the writer points out some of the duties, aims and dangers that are part of the Christian life. We focus here one of the duties: giving and receiving grace.
“Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace” (Hebrews 12:15, CEB)
I have a large, beautifully designed and multi-colored 2020 calendar in my kitchen. The top page features a verse of Scripture in graceful calligraphy and the dates of the month make up the bottom page. I have been inspired by this calendar for nine months now. But October’s offering really grabbed my attention. It reads: “Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace” (CEB).
As a teen-ager in catechism, I was taught that grace is”unmerited favor”- a gift I should really appreciate because I didn’t or, more importantly, couldn’t earn it. That was an interesting concept since I was always, and sometimes intentionally, goofing up and trying to earn back my mother and stepfather’s grace. Perhaps that’s why the concept of grace eluded me until I understood that grace isn’t like a grade you get in school: an “A” if you do well; an “F”if you fail at the task or behavior and a “C”if you are just ordinary. We must grow comfortable with the fact that Grace is freely given and not earned.
Rev. Margaret Minnicks (on the blog Letterpile) defines grace this way:
Grace means God’s unmerited favor that He dispenses on people even when they do not deserve it. However, God does not with -hold His love or blessing from them. That’s why it is defined as “unmerited.” There is nothing people can do to make God love them or bless them less. On the other hand, there is nothing they can do to make God love them or bless them more. God’s grace is solely dependent on God. . . .There is no limit on God’s love because He has enough to go around to all.
Given the free and limitless blessing of God’s grace, it behooves us to pay attention to when and how it is offered – and accept it. William Barclay says that “the writer of Hebrews knew that sometimes it is given to a man to mount up with wings as an eagle; he knew that sometimes a man is enabled to run and not be weary in the pursuit of some great moment of endeavour; but he also knew that of all things it is hardest to walk every day and not to faint.” In all those stages of life, one constant is the grace that God continually offers and that we should strive not to miss. We can be so self-involved, so determined to problem solve that we totally miss, or, even worse, ignore that life-lines that God’s grace offers us.
Also, if we walk in God’s grace, we will be able to share it with others. As the writer of Hebrews advises,
So, then, lift up the slack hands. Strengthen the weak knees. And make straight the paths of your feet so that the bones of the lame may not be completely dislocated but rather may be cured. Make peace your aim–and do it all together–and aim at that holiness without which no one can see the Lord. Watch that no one misses the grace of God. Watch that no pernicious influence grows up to involve you in troubles. And watch that the main body of your people are not soiled by any such thing (Hebrews 12: 12-17)
PUTTING TO USE
“Make sure that no one misses God’s grace.” This is not a just a verse about our own awareness. The writer says that not only must we watch for the times when grace is poured out on us, we must also make sure that others don’t miss when and how the grace of God is being showered on them. All around us are those who go astray or abandon the struggle. If we see someone flailing or drowning or just rejecting what God is offering them, we must point out the grace of God that we see in their lives.
This is one reason that spiritual friends and spiritual formation groups are so necessary, especially in the time of the pandemic. We don’t have to be physically present to be kind and supportive. We can be good channels of God’s blessings of grace just by being good listeners and and gracious sharers of the wisdom God gives us. We can also encourage others to be ready to hear how God is loving and teaching them through his grace.
While my husband was in his last days (though I didn’t realize they were his last days) my friends repeatedly helped me see the grace of God in his life and in mine – even when we struggled to be kind to each other and even though we often needed to be taught to be grateful for one more day. And now that Fred is gone (he died very unexpectedly on October 5), I need even more the recognition that God’s grace is with us both.
“Here is the danger of missing the grace of God. The word [the writer of Hebrews] uses might be paraphrased ‘failing to keep up with the grace of God.’ The early Greek commentator Theophylact interprets this in terms of a journey of a band of travellers who every now and again check up, “Has anyone fallen out? Has anyone been left behind while the others have pressed on?”
In Micah there is a vivid text (Micah 4:6), “I will assemble the lame.” Moffatt translates it: “I will collect the stragglers.” It is easy to straggle away, to linger behind, to drift instead of to march, and so to miss the grace of God. There is no opportunity in this life which cannot be missed. The grace of God brings to us the opportunity to make ourselves and to make life what they are meant to be. A man may, in his lethargy, his thoughtlessness, his unawareness, his procrastination, miss the chances which grace brings to him. Against that we must ever be upon the watch” (William Barclay in Daily Study Bible: Hebrews).