Reflection: Exodus 33:19 – 34: 9; 2 Corinthians 12: 1 – 10; Ephesians 4: 1 – 16.
The Christian growth process is facilitated by the agency of grace, a concept unique to Christian spirituality. Avenues of this exceptional Divine self-giving attitude come to us especially through the reading and study of the Scriptures, prayer, the sacraments, and Christian fellowship. However, involvement in these practices does not of themselves merit us God’s grace without the necessary presence of faith and gratitude (Heb 11:6), expressed as a result of our positional standing in Christ (Rom 8:16), itself the result of grace. In that posture, His grace nurtures our Christian growth and journey. The New Testament epistles refer to ‘grace’ on numerous occasions, depicting Divine assistance and empowerment, God’s saving benevolence in Christ, special endowment for ministry, and in salutations and benedictions. The Old Testament defines grace in God’s self-revelation to Moses. The creedal statement of Yahweh declares, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness (ḥesed) and truth” (Exd 34:6). The character descriptives and the noun ‘ḥesed’ all contribute to the meaning of grace. (For Sakenfeld’s study of ‘hesed,’ see pic below). In Jesus, we have a profound ‘lived-out’ demonstration of His Father’s grace to an estranged world. He was undoubtedly counter-culture in His faith and selflessness – a relevant, intentional lesson for us, as His Holy Spirit expresses compassion, patience and lovingkindness through us.
The reading and study of the Word of God appears to be the primary means of grace in Christian spirituality. Understandably so, as it is through the Word that God has chosen to not only to reveal Himself, but also to communicate His Gospel to mankind (Rom 10:14-15). Moreover, His Word enables us to see ourselves as we are, and as He sees us (Heb 4:12-13). Therefore, it is essential to engage with His Word (Col 3:16) if we desire to know our God.
A natural consequence and response arising from any intimate relationship is a tight dialogue between/among the parties. Likewise, with our Creator, prayer is the form of such a dialogue. This dual-way meeting of hearts, with love as its foundation, arouses His Spirit to pray in and through us (Eph 6:18, Jude 20), resulting in that oneness of mind that Jesus speaks of “if you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:12-15). Magnificent, yet sacrificial, as it is almost always other-centered!
The celebration of the sacrament of baptism demonstrates the evidence of inward changes impacting our outward witness (Rom 6:4), while communion reminds us of the gruesome sacrifice necessary for our cleansing (Matt 26:26-29), both objective expressions of paths of grace. Finally, Christian spirituality is corporate spirituality (Eph 4:14-16), for our relationship with God is not a personal possession, as an individual is only a minor part of the body of Christ. Our wounds by fellow believers in fellowship are indicative of our need to constantly access this avenue of Divine grace. Consequently, the ‘go-it-alone’ Christianity cannot be Biblical spirituality, given that our life in Christ is inextricably connected to life in a Christian community.