I started a new study last night through Ephesians using a study guide by Wendy Horger Alsup called By His Wounds You Are Healed: how the message of Ephesians transforms a woman’s identity. I’ve been really excited to read through her commentary on the book of Ephesians as I really enjoyed her other published book Practical Theology for Women. She seems to have a genuine desire to understand the text of God’s Word in it’s literal translation, not adding to it, nor taking away from it, and not bringing any preconceived notions with her. And I appreciate her desire for strong, deep theologically rooted writing for women that is true to the text, as that can be hard to find.
As I read through her notes in the first chapter of the book she presented grace in a way that I’d never thought of it before and I found it refreshing as well as convicting and I wanted to share what I’ve learned. In the second verse of Ephesians Paul is greeting the saints in Ephesus and says to them ‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘ (I want to study out the greek for myself, and haven’t done so yet, but at this point I’m trusting Wendy’s research.) She says that the Greek word translated grace in this verse is charis and is used through the New Testament in Ephesians as well as other books. Many of us know the basic definition of grace. It’s a very important term for believers! Basically grace is loving kindness, favor, or a gift. Many of us grew up learning grace as God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. But what struck Wendy the most (and me!) is the way charis is not used. Grace or charis is NOT about giving what is due. And it really hit me when she showed the use of the greek word charis in Luke 6. I’ll quote it here with the words charis is translated into in italics.
Luke 6 32 If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
This passage really drew out for me what grace is NOT! I’ll quote Wendy’s response. “When you give back what is earned or deserved, it is not charis–it is not grace. It is not favor or benefit, and it is not credited toward you as anything other than exactly what you are expected to do. Instead, grace does what is unexpected, undeserved, and out line with reasonable responses.”
All this really made me think… do I show other’s grace or do I simply show them what I am expected to? “Jesus says the evidence of our understanding of His grace is the way we show grace to others.” I have shown grace. Forgiven when I didn’t have to. Loved when I was not. Given without expecting anything in return. But how often do I only do those things when I expect to get it back, or when it’s already been shown to me? Ouch. This convicts me and I hope makes me continue to question the way I am treating others. God has shown me much grace and I need to share it with others.