G.R.A.C.E. - An Introduction
2 Corinthians 12:6-10
While I was in seminary at Emory University - Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, GA, I took a course in Systematic Theology. I will not bore you with the details of every assignment required, besides, I do not even recall them all but I do remember one of the most profound questions I was ever asked along my journey of spiritual formation. Dr. Noel Erskine was lecturing and he got to the point of the lecture where he paused and asked us -
WHAT IS YOUR THEOLOGICAL CENTER?
What lies at the core of your theological framework?
Now, I admit that, at first, I was a little stumped because I had never engaged in critical reflection regarding my theological center. And as you are reading this, I bet you probably feel the exact same way that I did. This question invites you to go deeper than - Have you heard a good sermon lately? Who is your favorite Gospel/Christian musical artist? What church do you go to? And the truth is that so many of us have never really considered, nor have we ever articulated what lies at the center of our theological beliefs. This is not to suggest that just because you have not done so that you are any less of a Christian. Not at all! I am simply extending the invitation to you that was once extended to me to THINK about what "IT" is that holds it all together for you when it comes to your beliefs about God. When you are able to articulate that, then you are in a better position to understand your own perspective of the world because your theological center becomes the lens through which you see everything.
BlogFam, as I recall, the class was filled with Christians and surprisingly, the response to this question varied. Some said Jesus. Others said Love. Some said The Word of God. Others said Redemption. Some named a specific attribute of God. Others recited their favorite Bible Verse. And as for me, well, I wrestled with this question and I continue to do so. I will say that all of the responses shared by my classmates fit in some way for me but I think there was one unmentioned piece that is/was an inescapable aspect of my theological center and that is the GRACE of God.
Amazing GRACE, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind, but now I see.
The GRACE of God is such a profound aspect of my own theology that I continue to grow in my own understanding of what GRACE is and what GRACE does. I am grateful that I continue to discover and re-discover the ways in which the GRACE of God is present and among us. And while I am aware that there are dozens of instances where the GRACE of God is evident in the Word of God, I am especially intrigued by the testimony of God's GRACE as written by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:6-10.
Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My GRACE is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Friends, I know that this might be a strange passage of Scripture to attempt to explore the GRACE of God. But in my mind, this not so pretty picture of Paul's pain and God's GRACE-filled response that does not just make everything alright is exactly where we need to be. I appreciate that Paul's situation does not end with a "pretty" resolution. It ends with GRACE and I am looking forward to the ways in which our GRACIOUS God will speak GRACE into our lives as we walk through this passage verse by verse, maybe phrase by phrase, for as long as it takes...
God Loves You and I Do Too!
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