Have you ever told someone you loved them and then they failed to reciprocate? If you have, you know more about that situation than I do, but I want to use that word picture as a segue foundation for my discussion today about grace. In Christian circles, we define grace simply as unmerited favor, but how can just two words tell us the whole story. Unmerited how? Favor when? These terms seem too broad.
As it happens to me all the time, experiences and things I see in everyday life remind me of biblical truths. I want to visit one such encounter. I have recently cultivated an interest in comic book heroes and the cheapest, albeit diluted, way of indulging this interest is in TV shows and movies. One such TV Show tells the story of Green Arrow, a DC comic vigilante who uses a bow and arrows to try to clean up crime in his city. In the process of taking the law into his own hands, he kills people. In his public life, he has a friendship with a female lawyer. This friendship is based on a deep regard for one another that once was romantic but Green Arrow has distanced himself from because of his double life. This lawyer friend, after a period of time, disapproves of Green Arrow’s activities. She eventually believes him to be a criminal who should be arrested and spearheads efforts to that end. As always happens in comics, the woman is kidnapped and in danger of being killed. Green Arrow finds out about this and, knowing that this lady friend wants to arrest him, saves her anyway.
As I watched this unfold before my eyes, I couldn’t help but tear up. I had to pause the episode and process what I was viewing. God isn’t some vigilante criminal like Green Arrow but my (our) thoughts, feelings, and actions toward Him were similar to the lawyer’s. For all intents and purposes, we wanted him arrested, killed, gone; we were enemies, but you see, we had animosity toward Him, but He loved us, period. Not anyway, not in spite of, he just did. And we needed saving. The action of God on our behalf was unmerited in that we were enemies, at least in our minds, and favor when we wanted him arrested, killed, gone.
Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Indeed God’s grace is not merely unmerited favor but rather saving us from death at great price to Himself when we despised Him, with no guarantee that His actions would change our minds. This comic book story was compelling to me because it mirrored the account of Jesus’ crucifixion. In the words of the song, it was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished. As we have looked at the cross as the love story, the bride price, we must remember that it also was the only way to save us from the death our sin deserved.
“Grace means the free, unmerited, unexpected love of God, and all the benefits, delights, and comforts which flow from it. It means that while we were sinners and enemies we have been treated as sons and heirs.” ~R.C.P. Hanson~