A 'graceless age,' or God-given grace for all?

Today’s article explores the idea that there’s a God-given law of good that we can all discern – that the grace of God, divine Love itself, is bestowed on everyone.

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A classic rock ballad once asked, “How can love survive in such a graceless age?” Although that song, “The Heart of the Matter” by Don Henley, was recorded nearly 30 years ago, its poignant question still seems relevant today in the face of almost daily news reports of violence, sexual misconduct, and political dialogue that’s often laced with toxic words and personal attacks.

As a counterpoint to this, I read recently that the 239-year-old Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” (John Newton) is today performed an estimated 10 million times annually. What this says to me is that many people today are looking for a higher, more spiritual answer to hate, incivility, and tragedy.

The grace coming to us from God’s love is so simple, so unselfish, so nonjudgmental, that it breaks through conventional reasoning about what we are and how we see and relate to others. Grace helps us have a more tender view of the world, and to counter conflict, anger, and crudeness. My study of Christian Science has shown me that there’s a God-given law of good that we can all discern – that the grace of God, divine Love itself, is bestowed on everyone.

The Bible explains, “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7). As we accept that Christly gift, we can, in turn, actively share its blessings. God’s grace – His boundless love for us – is universal, and because we are, in reality, the spiritual reflection of divine Love, no one is excluded from God’s grace. From this it follows that everyone has an inherent ability to reject wrong in whatever form. The Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds” (p. 4).

One definition of patience is the quality of expecting good, expecting justice; of meeting offense without anger or revenge. We can think of meekness as the strength that comes from letting divine Love, rather than pride and arrogance, lead us. Love counters hatred. These qualities are powerful because their source is God, whose infinite love is continually and actively expressed.

At one time, I worked in the advertising department of a Fortune 500 company. There was one manager in particular who had a reputation for being coarse and belligerent. Instead of providing constructive feedback, he often rejected our work with disparaging comments and ridicule. As we approached the deadline for finishing an important project to promote his product line, I became very angry and frustrated. His put-downs were demoralizing, and our group’s productivity and creativity were suffering.

I had a clear sense that trying to meet this challenge through self-justification and anger was not going to work. And so I paused to take some quiet time to pray. I remember being lifted by these words in John’s Gospel, referring to Christ: “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (1:16). I realized that I needed to express more grace, and to recognize that despite how it seemed, everyone – including this man – was God’s reflection, capable of responding to and feeling God’s grace.

I asked to meet with him to discuss his project face-to-face, rather than through internal memos. I told him that our entire group shared his desire to promote his product line in the best possible light, and that I truly wanted to work with him productively and with mutual respect.

He paused, and then said, “I’m not used to being treated this way.” It was a positive comment, and proved to be a turning point. The project went forward through completion quickly after that, and future ones did as well.

If our thoughts and actions reflect even a grain or two of those qualities we “most need,” this helps lift ourselves and our neighbors out of the view that we live in a “graceless age.” And we come to see that grace is ours to express at every moment!

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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