The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: What is the Grace of God?

What is your view of grace? Is the grace of God ever extended to those who have not done works of righteousness?

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

Ty Silzer, a former pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America, responds:

“Is His grace extended? Absolutely. He extends it to me when I fail to do works of righteousness. But that’s speaking in very small and daily terms. ‘He causes his sun to shine on evil people and good people. He sends rain on those who do right and those who don’t’ (Matthew 5:24) refers to a ‘general goodness’ of God to all people. But as far as grace that extends past this life, even the most of hyper of Calvinists believe that children who are not yet to a certain age, regardless of the household’s faith, are safe in the love of God. 

“So what is my view of grace? It’s for everyone, everywhere, throughout time, and we have the choice to embrace it or reject it. This is true for our day-to-day (temporal) lives, as well as eternal (cosmic) implications. One of my mentors said, “A lot of the verses we (the larger Evangelical Church) chalk up to talking about ‘being saved’ are really more about being ‘the priesthood of believers.’ He meant the verses that usually get used for ‘who’s in’ are more about ‘who gets to pour their life out for others; to be the hands, feet, and mouth of God for those who need to meet Him or have Him work in their lives.’ In other words, to be part of what He’s doing in pouring out His grace to all.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“If a member of my congregation came to me and asked me this question I would redirect the person to focus on their own deeds and works. In the end what matters most is how we lived our lives to make this world a better place. I would suggest to not worry about what others do and don’t do for we do not know the full extent of the burdens others carry in their lives. I would encourage the person to bring their best self to all endeavors and to live their best lives. My advice would be to be generous and kind in all encounters and to offer forgiveness and understanding when others come up short and fail you.”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“Grace in simplest terms is anything that is done freely and willingly. In that sense, all God’s acts are gracious, because He alone has absolute freedom to do whatever He wills. In the context of God’s dealings with our fallen race, grace is shown in God’s free gift of salvation to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the only Savior. As sinners, we certainly are in no position to compel God to save us, and it would be just of God to leave us all to perish.  

“As the free gift of God’s grace, salvation cannot be earned by bartering with God, trading a few works of righteousness (as we see them) for a mass of sins and transgressions (as He sees them). It is our duty as His creatures to obey His will, so no special merit attaches to any good works that we do. When by faith we accept His free gift of salvation, God gives us grace to do what we should have been doing all along. ‘But without faith, it is impossible to please God’ (Hebrews 11:6).”

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“Christians use the word ‘grace’ a bit differently than Hindus, but the idea that there is a benevolent Force in the universe that blesses individuals is shared.  Hindus do not believe that grace might be withheld from someone. Thinking of grace as something that is dispensed  to one person but not another is foreign to a Hindu. We look at grace as something that pervades the universe. Imagine it as air. It is present, but we have to do our part and breathe. So one goal of the pious Hindu would be to learn to become more receptive to that which is simply there.

“As far as ‘righteous action’ is concerned, we would refer to that as either seva or karma yoga, where noble actions are performed with no thought of result or reward. It’s important to understand that all such activity begins with our state of consciousness. A God centered mind will be drawn to acting this way. So it’s not the physical effort, but the spiritual mentality that draws that thought into reality. Sometimes we are not able to do so. An example would be someone so thoroughly disabled that he or she cannot act at all. But holding thoughts of generosity in itself is liberating.”

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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