The Different Faces Of Grace Essay, Research Paper
The Different Faces of Grace
Grace. Just what is grace? Why did I choose the word grace for my paper? I chose the word grace because it means something to me personally, and I wanted to enhance my knowledge of it’s many meanings. When I think of the word grace, I think of something wonderful,something powerful. To me, grace is more than just a word, it is a gift from God. I have always known it’s definition to be “receiving what is undeserved.” An example of grace is forgiveness. No one “deserves” to be forgiven. Forgiveness is something we “undeservingly receive.” So, that makes forgiveness a form of grace. I first learned these things from my parents, from church sermons, and from studying the Bible. I have often confused the definitions of grace and mercy. Mercy is “not receiving what is deserved.” For example, in a court of law, a judge may show mercy to the convicted person by pronouncing a sentence less severe than the law allows for an offense. Grace and mercy go hand in hand; it is impossible to have one without the other. Grace is a big part of my life because it allows me to love and forgive others. If I were not living under “God’s grace” I am not so sure I could forgive others as easily as I do. The word grace has been around for many years. Grace’s meaning began as one which applied to attractiveness. It was later used to mean favor and then to mean gratitude. Through the years, grace has made an impact on many people’s lives. Some form of grace can be found in songs, plays, businesses,royalties, poems, and Christianity.
According to The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) the English spelling of grace comes from the French word grace. The word grace goes back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries when it was spelled grass or grease. The history of grace originated from the Latin word gratia which lead to the Spanish word, gracia, the Portuguese word, graca, and the Italian word, grazia. The first definition given in the OED is “pleasing quality, gracefulness.” The archaic definition is “pleasantness of flavor.” Both of these definitions deal with something being pleasant or pleasing to a person. The first definition in the unabridged dictionary states the same when it reads “elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.” For example, when a person says someone moves gracefully, like a ballerina, they are referring to grace as an elegant motion. The second definition in the unabridged dictionary is “a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment.” These definitions show that grace also deals with beauty, and beauty is definetly a pleasing quality. One interesting thing I discovered is there once was a game called “the graces.” The game was played with hoops and a pair of slender rods. It got its name because it helps develop graceful movements of the arms (OED).
The second definition for the word grace is “favour.” “It is a matter of favour not of right” (OED). The OED contains some old terms using the word grace. These include, “save your graces,” meaning “may it not displease you.” Another is “by grace of,” meaning “thanks to.” This definition relates grace to being like forgiveness, as when a person asks for forgiveness he is asking a favour. A favour is usually asking someone to do something for you that you don’t deserve. Being in a person’s “good graces” implies being in his favour and good opinion (OED).
An obsolete definition that I found interesting was “a gratuity or douceur” (OED). I would never have associated grace with a tip. This is another example of finding favour. For example, a server at a restaurant must find favour with the customer, and his reward is the gratuity left for him.
The OED also associates the grace definition of “favour” in a religious sense. The OED refers to “the grace of God” or “free grace”, as “unmerited favor of God.” Another definition for “the grace of God” is the divine influence which operates in men to regenerate and sanctify. This definition tells of the abilities a Christian has through God’s grace. Different religious terms that apply to grace are as follows: “A state of grace” is the condition of one who is under divine influence. The “year of grace” is a year as reckoned from the birth of Christ (OED).
The term “days of grace” refers to the period (in England three days) allowed by law for the payment of a bill of exchange, after the expiration of the term for which it is drawn (OED). This is where we get our “grace period” used with credit card, mortgage, and loan payments today.
Another form of grace is used when talking to highly respected people such as queens, kings, and archbishops. People under such authority often call them “Your grace” when speaking
to them (OED). This is considered a sign of respect toward royalty, which is still used today.
One definition I found that I liked refers to “grace notes.” Grace notes are, “an embellishment consisting of additional notes introduced into vocal or instrumental music, not essential to the harmony or melody.” I’m a singer, so I know from experience that grace notes can be very fun. They allow the musician to intertwine his/her own personal style into a song (OED).
The last definition for the word grace in the OED is “thanks” or “thanksgiving”. Grace is still used today in the form of thanks when a person “says grace.” People, Christians inparticular, still say grace today before partaking in a meal. This is a way of thanking God for providing their food.
Even William Shakespeare refers to grace in a few of his plays. One such play is Hamlet. The following is an example of the word grace used in Hamlet. Stay illusion! If thou hast any sound or use of voice,Speak to me! If there be any good thing to be done
That may to thee do ease and grace to me, Speak to me! (1.1.134-139)
Here Horatio is speaking to a ghost that looks very much like Hamlet’s father. Horatio is shouting at the ghost, almost commanding the ghost to talk to him. I believe Shakespeare uses
the word grace here in the form of “receiving something that is undeserved.” Horatio doesn’t deserve to have the ghost speak to him, he only hopes the ghost will speak. It would be an act of grace, on the ghosts part, if he spoke to Horatio.
Another play by Shakespeare that uses the word grace is Macbeth. . . . . My noble partner You greet with present grace and great prediction Of noble having and of royal hope, That he seems rapt withal: to me, you speak not (1.3.54-57).
Grace is used here in the same context as it was used in Hamlet. Here Banquo is speaking to the witches. He is telling them that they greet Macbeth with “present grace”, but do not predict anything of Banquo’s future. Banquo is asking the witches what they know about his future. When he says “present grace,” he is meaning present as in something Macbeth did not earn, but will one day receive.
I found an interesting article in Guidepost magazine about a woman and her personal encounter with grace. Sandra Wright is the woman who experienced God’s grace. Wright was a mother of three who had no money for food to feed her children. She was desperate for money and decided the easiest thing to do was to rob a convenience store with a gun. Before she went into the store a voice called her by name. This voice told her to take the bullets out of the gun,
and she obeyed. She went into the store and tried to rob the counter clerk. The clerk later overpowered her, beat her up, and then tried to shoot her with her own gun. But, she had taken the bullets out, so her life was spared. Later, after she had spent much time in jail, she decided to attend a prison Bible study. While she was there, she tells her story to the Bible study leader. The leader told her it was God who told her to take the bullets out of the gun. Later that same day her eyes fell on the verse Ephesians 2:8. This verse tells about being saved by grace. Wright accepted Christ and began a women’s prison ministry. Wright said, “I’m living proof of God’s grace, which has been sufficient for me in every situation” (13). Wright definetly had a first hand encounter with God’s grace. Wright’s story also stresses the “receiving of something undeserved.” Many people would say that Wright deserved to die, but God’s grace saved her.
Over the years grace has been used in many poems. The following stanza is the last part of a poem by Lynne Newman. In this poem, Newman talks about God’s grace in a personal sense.
A new-found peace surrounds me, In surf-sounds everywhere, And the grace of God caresses me As the wind blows through my hair! (9-12)
This poem is about the ocean and about a person actually feeling God’s grace. Powerful things, like the ocean, often remind people of God and of His power. Here, Newman is reminded of God when she feels a peace surround her as she looks at the ocean. Newman gives a beautiful illustration when she says, “And the grace of God caresses me/ As the wind blows through my hair!” Here she is comparing God’s grace to a loving caress. A caress is a sign of loving affection, so here she is saying God’s grace is like a caress to show His love for us.
When most people hear the word grace the religious meaning comes to mind. Verses about grace are found throughout the Bible. One particular verse that tells about grace is found in the second chapter of Ephesians. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).” These verses confirm the receiving of something undeserved” definition of grace. Grace is not
something that can be earned, it is a gift from God. Grace is something we “undeservingly receive” from God. These verses tell that by God’s grace we are saved by faith. I believe God made it this way so that there is nothing we can do to be “worthy” of His grace, it’s something we have to faithfully receive.
Earlier in this paper I said that, to me, grace is something wonderful, beautiful, and powerful. The reason I say this is because of the hymn, “Amazing Grace.” This hymn has been around for many, many years. I would say that there are very few, if any, people in the U. S. who have not sung or at least heard of this hymn. This song is very special to many people, Christians in particular. There is, in my opinion, something powerful behind the lyrics of this song. When I sing “Amazing Grace” and really concentrate on the words, I get a wonderful sense of joy and realization of what God has done for me. The fourth verse of the hymn is one of my favorites. “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace shall lead me home.” I think this verse is beautiful. It tells of problems and
conflicts that have already been overcome by grace. It tells how grace is a shelter, and that it will be with us until the end of our days.
So, what is grace? Grace has more than just one meaning. I’m sure that right off, most people do not associate grace with music, royalty, business, poetry, and Shakespeare. What first
comes to mind is probably the religious or beauty definition for grace. I say this because, prior to researching this paper, these definitions were the only ones familiar to me. Every definition of
grace deals with something good or pleasing to a person. Grace, when used in two different contexts, plays a large part in the life of a Christian, as it does the life of a ballerina. Imagine what this world would be like if everyone would show a little grace.