We all know how life works. The student who gets all the right answers, gets the most rewards. The best looking young woman becomes Miss ….. The person with money for sure must have the easiest life. We believe that. In the Middle Ages there was a hierarchy of value also. God is at the top, then angels, then people but more specifically men and then women, then living creatures, then living plants and at the bottom of the list was the rock or inanimate objects. We struggle with this hierarchy of value even today. We see it in our battles with racism, with pay inequalities, and other more subtle prejudices like dealing with people with disabilities or poverty. The subtle message is that we get what we deserve.
“By grace we are saved…” starts out Ephesians 2:8-10. The “grace” of Christianity directly confronts the hierarchies of life. We say “the ground is level at the foot of the cross;” meaning we are all sinners and no one is more deserving than any other to receive the goodies of life or eternity.
The all time favorite hymn “Amazing Grace” was penned by John Newton in 1772. Newton was born of a Catholic trained shipping father and a nonconformist mother. At a young age he was orphaned and raised by his mother’s friends. Newton had many near death experiences but it was not until the middle of a violent storm at sea that he turned to faith. He is famous for having been involved in slave trade though is thought to have treated his slaves well as he believed that was the Biblical directive that justified ownership. Later in life, under the influence of Wilberforce, Newton fought against slavery.
Newton understood that there was nothing “good” or deserving about his life that merited salvation for himself. He saw himself a “wretch”, “lost,” and “blind.” By grace he was saved, God reached out to him. He did not crawl up to God, earning favor, by doing acts of faith or giving large gifts or doing great deeds. He knew he was saved by grace alone, “sola gratia.” We sometimes make grace into an acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expensive. Perhaps you can think of other words that go with grace to describe the miracle of salvation:
And so we say, “thank you!” Blessings.