I have been reading a lot lately about the importance of community. We are surely blessed by those around us and the community that we all belong to called Elim. One paper that has particular been good is a paper by Bruce Hekman (2007) entitled Schools as Communities of Grace. In the paper he provides several definitions of grace.
Grace…is shorthand for everything that God is and does for is in our tired and sinful broken lives (Smedes, 1982)
We could define grace as being first of all that power os God, rooted in his abiding love, by which God forgives the sinful, accepts the unacceptable, revives the spiritually deal, and so enables a reunion between the Creator and his wayward creatures.
Beyond forgiveness, grace also aims to transform our way of life. Encountering God’s grace is a formative, creative moment as a result of which a person is not only graced by God’s love but also becomes gracious because of God’s love. (Hoezee, 1996)
I love that grace is not complete in mercy and forgiveness. A community of grace in no way means ‘accepting’ sins. Yes, we accept the people - Love thy neighbour’ but being graceful does not mean we should ignore the sin. Jesus clearly demonstrates this in his dealing with the woman caught in adultery (John 8). While the ‘righteous’ people brought the woman to Jesus, to test him. Would Jesus, teaching on love and full of grace denounce the law of Moses and not stone the woman? In the encounter Jesus confronted the sin, some commentators suggest he confronted the sin not only of the woman but also the men and eventually released the woman to go and sin no more.
St Augustine and later Mohandas Gandhi encourage us, those living in a community of grace, to love the sinner (let’s be honest, this includes us) but to hate the sin.
We live in a time where biblical ethics and morality are being challenged on many fronts. Let’s not confuse our responsibility as people of grace. Jesus dealt with people and sin it two very different ways.