“The final work of grace in anyone’s life is to make a person gracious.”
Fred B. Craddock in his sermon, On Being Gracious
The subject is grace. Not only grace but the subject is God’s call to the church for extravagant expressions of grace. God’s grace is demonstrated in the cross. The response of God’s people must flow from that demonstration. As we have received the undeserving favor of God – the whole notion of grace – so we extend the same favor to others, particularly those who may be undeserving. As Fred Craddock so correctly observes, the final work of grace in anyone’s life is to make a person gracious.
As members of First Presbyterian Church we are more than a club of people who enjoy the same style of worship and the warmth of fellowship; we are a community of faith. That community is called together by Jesus, held together by Jesus and commanded by Jesus to complete God’s work of grace in the local community and throughout the world. Extending grace to others is a non-negotiable for those who are baptized into God’s community of faith.
This is not always evident in churches. The church may be called to be an alternative community from the rest of the world but often it isn’t. When the world “points the finger” at someone, so does the church. When the world passes judgment on someone’s behavior, so does the church. When the world becomes critical of someone’s bad judgment or poor life choices, so does the church. As one young person once told me in Pennsylvania, I love the whole idea about what the church is to be in the world. The problem is, most often it’s just like the world. The church loves those who deserve to be loved and can be rather mean to the sinner.
There is a wonderful story in the eight chapter of John’s Gospel. A woman is caught in adultery. There is no question that she is guilty. She is caught in the very act! Not even Jesus denies that she is guilty. Remember the story? Pay attention to the details. There is no question that she was betraying her marriage vows. There is no question that what she was doing is wrong. Result? Fingers extended on one hand, pointing directly at her, a stone in the other hand to cast at her. Everything was going wrong that day for the woman. But then something went right. The angry, self-righteous crowd decided to get Jesus involved. Remember the story? Jesus didn’t dismiss her sin. Nor did He point His finger at her. Jesus gave generously that day; Jesus gave away God’s grace. And fingers once extended, pointing directly at her were closed and stones dropped to the ground. A mob was transformed into a community of faith; a community of grace.