Thursday, January 26, 2006

Instilling Values, Part 2

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men." Luke 2:52

Yesterday I looked up and saw the words inscribed over the other door at Susannah’s school: GRACE – Infants – TRUTH. Where ‘grace’ and ‘truth’ walk hand-in-hand, they form a literary reference to Jesus.

Grace is a word that has been popularly defined in certain Christian circles of late as “freely-given and underserved gifts from God.” And that may be a partial definition; and useful in countering a Protestant Work Ethic or Catholic Guilt Complex. But if every good thing in life comes from God (as James 1:17 suggests), freely and undeservedly, then grace, on that definition, seems somewhat redundant. And if Jesus himself is a freely-given and underserved gift from God, then for him to be described as being full of grace seems tautologous…

At least amongst other meanings, grace, to the generation that carved the word over the school door, referred to social poise – in movement, and conversation. That might not feel ‘religious enough’ for some Christians today; but I think we lose something by excluding it. What did it mean, in practice, for Jesus to be “full of grace and truth”? In part, at least, I think Luke gives us the answer when he wrote that Jesus “grew in wisdom…and in favour…” He possessed the social poise to be a popular party guest; and yet – even, in spite of the fact that – he often challenged his hosts and fellow-guests in uncompromising ways on such occasions. There was something very attractive about his personality, that resulted in his finding favour, which we might describe as being full of grace. And then there is the truth: not knowledge, but wisdom; not so much learning information – the whats? wheres? whys? hows? and whos? – as learning right from wrong, and how to act in any given situation in order to bring blessing to others.

I do not wish my children to leave school having been moulded into dutiful and orderly citizens; but I do hope, and pray, that in the rough-and-tumble of the school experience they will emerge possessing the grace that results in favour, and the ability to use that favour to speak truth into the lives of their generation.

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