What does grace mean?

I often hear the word “grace” used in ways that make me wonder how the speaker defines it, understands it, and how it came to have that meaning.

For example:

– Grace is unmerited favour

– I want to show grace to my unsaved neighbours, not judgment

– God has such grace for us when we disobey Him

– we should show him/her grace

Obviously, as in all discussions, a lot boils down to definitions of one’s terms, but in my casual observation (and with no intention of misrepresenting anyone’s meanings) it seems that grace is frequently used as a juxtaposition to judgment or a judgmental attitude.

A few things that I observe from scripture regarding grace:

– God gives grace to the humble

– Grace trains us to deny ungodliness and live upright lives

– Jesus embodied grace and truth

There are many more things to add to that, but these are just some initial thoughts.

So… When we think of “showing grace” to our unsaved friends/neighbours, what do we mean by that?  Do we mean that we treat them graciously, respectfully, kindly?  Do we mean that we shrink back from ever talking about sin, pointing out their sin, calling them to repent and believe the gospel?  Do we mean that we try not to let our lives and Christian choices cause them to feel convicted or judged?  Do we mean that we do our best to be a good Christian witness without offending anyone by our faith?  If this is what we mean when we say that, is any of that really employing the proper meaning of giving grace?

Also, do we understand that God’s grace doesn’t simply automatically apply when we are disobedient?  That God’s grace is reserved for the humble and contrite?  Are we careful to clarify this when talking about the wonderful grace of God?  God’s grace is certainly unmerited in the sense that we could never deserve it and He doesn’t owe us His favour.  But is not unconditional – there are definite conditions associated with receiving this gift.

Does “showing grace” mean that we give people time/space to come around to the truth?  If that’s what we mean, where do we get that idea of grace from?  Again, I am not suggesting we DON’T give people room to process the truth, just hitting them over the head with it – rather I am asking about our hijacking of a biblical word, with biblical meaning, to become a word that means whatever we want it to mean.   The reason this matters is that we will soon begin to take our meanings for this word, and read them back into scripture.

Are there other nuances of the word “grace” in scripture that I haven’t thought of?

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