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If you want to experience “Amazing Grace,” you can buy a 24-ounce bottle for $32 ($17 for eight ounces) at places like Ulta or Sephora.
Made by a company called philosophy, Amazing Grace is the name of their shampoo. On the bottle, philosophy writes its philosophy on grace as follows:
“Life is a classroom. We are both student and teacher. Each day is a test. And each day we receive a passing or failing grade in one particular subject: grace. Grace is compassion, gratitude, surrender, faith, forgiveness, good manners, reverence and the list goes on. It’s something money can’t buy and credentials rarely produce. Being the smartest, the prettiest, the most talented, the richest or even the poorest can’t help. Being a humble person can, And being a helpful person can guide you through your days with grace and gratitude.”
Now, what’s wrong with that picture?
Aside from a bottle of shampoo costing $32, that definition of grace is not the biblical definition.
In a recent radio interview, Justin Holcomb, a pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash., told about finding a bottle of Amazing Grace shampoo that belonged to his wife in their shower and reading the philosophy out loud. He told the host, “They tried to play off the hymn, ‘Amazing Grace,’ but they gutted and domesticated it and turned grace into a horrible chore.”
Holcomb went on to say, “That’s how our culture thinks about grace, that it’s a virtue you have to cultivate and then it becomes a chore as opposed to a gift.”
That’s also how some Christians view the grace of God as well. They can recite Ephesians 2:8-9 verbatim: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”
However, silently they add, “Yeah, but if I want to stay in a state of grace I better toe the line.”
That’s why Christian self-help books sell thousands of copies. Christians love the grace of God, as long as they have a checklist of things they can do to maintain it.
But grace that you have to work at and be tested on isn’t grace. Grace is amazing because it “saved a wretch like me.”
John Newton, who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace,” was a British slave trader who, during a violent storm at sea, felt the wretchedness of not just his profession, but of his humanity. He cried out to God, “Have mercy on us all!” — and God did have mercy. Because of grace, Newton’s life was forever changed after that.
During the radio interview, Holcomb told the story of being baptized when he was 7 and a week later sneaking into his neighbor’s house and flooding it, which caused thousands of dollars in damages, and then he lied about it.
He suffered with a guilty conscience for several weeks until his dad learned that the boy caused the flood and confronted him.
“My dad was furious and I knew I was toast,” he said. “I told him, ‘I did it the week after I got baptized — why would I do that? I’ve been asking God to forgive me every night when I say my prayers, and I don’t know what to do! I don’t even know if I’m really a Christian.’”
Holcomb said when his dad saw him quivering under the fear and the weight of God’s wrath and disappointment, his dad did an amazing thing. He said, “You’ve asked God to forgive you? Then you’re forgiven, and I forgive you, too — and I’ll pay for the damages.”
Then Holcomb’s dad did something even more amazing. He told his guilty (but forgiven) son, “Go outside and play.”
“My dad gave me grace as a gift, and that sent shockwaves throughout the rest of my life, and it absolutely changed me,” he said. “I am a gracious person, because I’ve received grace. I forgive others, because I’ve been forgiven.”
Friends, that’s the grace of God. We are wretched, but when we ask for forgiveness and beg for mercy, he gives it freely — and then sends us out to play.
There are no daily tests, no worrying about passing or failing grades.
Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.