Worthy Of Grace?

Worthy Of Grace? November 14, 2021

Not artist listed: Cross At Sunset / Hippopx

When we are filled with grace, we must engage it, cooperate with it, live it out by embracing the dictates of Christ, the dictates of love. That is, we should, as Paul said, live our life in such a way as to show ourselves worthy of the calling which we have been given:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all (Eph. 4:1-6 RSV).

We should be humble, looking to others with love, and through that love, seek peace and unity with all. This is not an easy task. We have not been given an easy calling. We will be tempted, all so tempted, to judge others, to say that they are not worthy of grace. Nonetheless, we should ask ourselves, who is? God, who is love,  is the only one who can determine this, and in that determination, has  determined to offer grace to everyone.

God calls us all together to be one even as God is one. We are to embrace each other with love, to bear with each other, to be patient with each other, realizing that we are all working out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Our focus, our knowledge, our abilities will often be different from others. We need them even as they need us. We cannot do all things by ourselves. Being judgmental, however, will make it harder for all of us, for if we follow through with such an attitude, we will cast others needlessly aside.

This is why we must not start looking to others to determine who we think is or is not worthy of grace. We should know that we are not worthy, and yet we are still offered it. We should not be surprised when others are offered it as well. It is never up to us to determine the worthiness of others to receive the gifts of Christ. It is not up to us to judge in this fashion. Certainly, we are to make prudential decisions in the world, and that means, we must judge and reject various activities, such as those which would harm the common good, but even when we do this, we must realize that everyone is called to grace, everyone is called to be in the mystical body of Christ. We must not stand in the way of those who would come to receive. This is why we should heed the warning of St. Gregory Palamas, whose words, though written in defense of hesychasts, have universal value to them:

But these people of whom you speak judge because they lack judgment. In their inexperience, they find themselves lacking in what could have been useful to their brothers. Impudently taking to themselves the judgment which belongs to God, they say that one person rather than another is worthy of grace, choosing any basis they like for this judgment. But it is for God alone to designate those who are worthy of His graces.[1]

St. Gregory reminds us that when we become judgmental, when we turn away from the path of love, we create excuses to justify our misbehavior. No matter what basis we choose, we choose wrong, for we become legalistic, acting as if the partial truth we embrace was universal instead of merely a part of a greater whole. God, not us, knows the fullness of the situation, and God, knowing what God knows, always offers mercy and grace. Why would we, with our partial knowledge and understanding, dare to judge differently? Certainly, this does not mean we cannot and should not ignore wrong doing, but we must engage it with love and grace, not with a judgmental spirit. Jesus, after all, used the story of the Good Samaritan to point out how those who can be and often are judged as vile by some particular basis prove themselves to be greater than those who would judge them:

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion,  and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’  Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Lk. 10:3-37 RSV).

We are called to love and to be loved. We are called to love, and with that love, cast aside all self-attachment because such attachment leaves no room grace. When we become filled with grace, we can and will share that grace with others. When we see others doing this, when we see people bearing the burdens of others, when we see them helping out the poor and needy, even if they are not Christian, we can and should see how God is at work with them. We should not fear them as if they are taking away from us what we should be doing, as if they are replacing us. Instead, we should realize that we are not doing enough. They are doing God’s work when they act in this fashion And if they are doing God’s work, then grace is at work in them. We should acknowledge and accept that grace; instead of attacking it or trying to find reasons to take it away from them, we should embrace it by working with it, promoting the good which they have done. We should let God work with them instead of causing scandal by judging and condemning them. For, we must realize, if and when we embrace that grace, we can start working to bring their share of grace with ours. We should hope we can come together and be one, doing so for the glory of God. If we are not willing to try to do this because we would rather judge them for not being like us, for being “Samaritans,” we risk being the ones judged for how we hinder the work of grace, slowing down the reconciliation of all things.

God offers grace to all. That  grace is often secretly at work in others. Who are we to try to squash it by saying they are not worthy?

[1] St. Gregory Palamas: The Triads: Books One. Trans. Robin Amis (Wellington, Somerset: Praxis, 2002), 143  [This is from the complete translation of the first book, which is not had in the Westerns of Spirituality Volume of the Triads that I normally use].


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