by Erin Bird

As I was considering what to write this week, I realized its been a while since I’ve talked about Riverwood’s three values. So I’d like to take the next couple of weeks here on the blog to talk with you about Grace, Truth, & Trust. Which means this week we start with value numero uno – Grace.

What is Grace?

A few years ago, I heard a story about a cop who pulled over a young man for having an expired license plate. Even though the driver knew the license plate was expired, he simply didn’t have the money to pay for the renewal. Even though he was working hard, his young family was barely making ends meet. So when it came to either paying for the license renewal or feeding his kids, he opted for food. You can’t help but feel for this guy, but the fact remained that he had broken the law and deserved to get a ticket.

Now, if I had been the cop, I would have been tempted to let the guy go. This would have been mercy. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. This guy deserved a ticket, but I might have not given it to him because of his financial situation.

But the cop in the story didn’t show mercy. He didn’t let the young man off with a warning. Instead, he handed him a ticket. But wrapped up inside the ticket was a $100 bill to pay the fine.

That’s grace.

You see, while mercy is not getting what you DO deserve, grace is getting what you DO NOT deserve.

The Greek word for “grace” is the word charis (pronounced “Karis” – now you know where my oldest daughter got her name!). But charis also means “gift.” And that’s what the anonymous cop in the story did. He upheld the law, but at the same time, he dispensed grace to the driver by giving the means to not only pay the fine and renew his license, but renew his wife’s registration as well.

The Power of Grace

In the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), we read about Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus. Jesus had been arrested in the middle of the night and dragged off for a “trial.” Peter followed a safe distance behind so he could figure out what was going to happen to Jesus. But a couple of people recognized Peter and asked him, “Aren’t you one of His disciples?” Afraid he too would be arrested and possibly killed for his association with Jesus, Peter emphatically said no. He denied being a Jesus-follower.

So when Jesus is resurrected from the dead, you can understand why Peter would go back to his previous career in fishing. He had failed as a disciple. He had told Jesus he wouldn’t deny being a Jesus-follower, and yet he did. So he went back to the one thing he was good at.

But Jesus wasn’t done with Peter.

In John 21, we see Jesus confront Peter. Peter deserved at least a lecture for his denial, maybe even more. Yet Jesus didn’t give him any of that. He forgave him! He showed Peter mercy.

But Jesus didn’t stop there. He then gave Peter responsibility to move Jesus’ mission forward. Jesus gave him something he didn’t deserve. He gave him responsibility and leadership. He gave him grace.

And we see Peter respond to this grace when he preaches in Acts 2. A throng of people listen to Peter tell about Jesus, and 3000 people made a decision to follow Jesus.

You see, Peter didn’t take the grace that Jesus gave him and take advantage of it. The grace of Jesus launched Peter into something beautiful. Peter didn’t leave the conversation in John 21 thinking he had just gotten away with something. He was humbled by the grace Jesus gave him, and Peter allowed that grace to launch him into something powerful.

That’s why at Riverwood we talk about “leading with grace.” We want to give to people the same kind of grace that Jesus has given us. We believe that when someone truly experiences grace, it will launch them into something beautiful, and rather than just be takers and consumers in life, they too will become grace-dispensers.

And so, if you have seen the depravity of your own sin and realized God has not only shown you mercy by forgiving you of your sins, but also gives you grace by inviting you to follow Him, then give others grace, trusting that God can use that grace to launch them into something beautiful.

Let’s lead with grace. Let’s be grace-dispensers!