God’s Grace

In fiction, I think Christians often depict God as a God of grace. Actually, when I started this little series, my premise was that writers have a tendency to portray God in stereotypical, one-dimensional terms. Often that one dimension for Christians seems to be connected to God’s grace.

However, after Sunday, I realize that grace is not a “simple” trait, any more than God is a simple person. And certainly God’s display of it is as deep as He is.

You see, my pastor preached from John 21 (the story of the resurrected Christ cooking breakfast for His disciples after telling them where to find fish when they came up empty) and pointed out some ways that God extended grace to Jesus’s disciples, especial to Peter.

First, God extended grace to them by humbling them. The account begins with the miracle—implied rather than stated—of closing the disciples’ nets to fish.

After seeing the resurrected Christ and waiting around for a week or more, Peter had declared he was going back to work. As if that was something he didn’t need God for. As if that was what would give him purpose. Instead, these professional fishermen worked all night in a place of abundant fish and came up empty. By humbling them, God showed them their need.

God’s grace also sought Peter out—first coming to the bank of the sea where they were fishing, and later pulling him aside to have a private talk. Peter, much like Adam in the Garden after he sinned, seemed to be in “stealth mode.” After all, the last exchange before Jesus went to the cross was a look between them, right after Peter swore he didn’t know the man. How much Peter needed to talk to Jesus! But he went fishing—went back to His pre-Christ life, back to making a living using a skill he was good at.

Having put them in a situation to face their need, God’s grace guided them. It helped them with what they were trying to accomplish. This is the aspect of grace we see most often. In this particular instance, Jesus told them where to cast their net, and the result was a catch of large fish. Not just a few, not some large and some small. Large fish so numerous their nets started to break.

Jesus then extended Himself to the disciples as a friend, as a servant. He cooked breakfast for them. So like Him—the Master who was willing to wash His men’s feet, the Messiah who sacrificed His life, God who dressed Himself in the form of Man.

God’s grace then called Peter beyond earthly success to eternal significance. No more catching fish for Peter. His new job was to feed God’s sheep.

I’ve often wondered what happened to that incredible catch. They ate some for breakfast, but what about the rest? Did they leave them for the poor? Give them to the guys in the next boat? Stop by Peter’s house and tell cousin Daniel their were all his if he but cleaned them and hauled them away? Or did they stay on the bank and rot? Today’s fictionalized account would probably have Jesus release the unused fish back in the water. Whaterver.

The point is, the fish no longer mattered. Jesus was giving Peter something much more important to do. His grace lead Peter BEYOND “having it all.”

What was the last story you read in which God’s grace deprived a character of something? I actually can name such a book: Penelope Stokes’s The Blue Bottle (I’m not sure I have that title right).

How about a story in which a character, after winning it all, in earthly terms, leaves it to take care of the eternal?

Once again, I find myself challenged to show God’s character—not merely by increasing the angles from which I look at Him, but by peering through the magnifying glass of Biblical study so that I can see more than the surface of His traits.

Published in: on December 4, 2006 at 4:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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