What is Grace?
Mayor LaGuardia was mayor of New York City during the worst days of WWII. He was nicknamed the “Little Flower” because he was short and always wore a carnation in his lapel. He rode the NYC fire trucks and took entire orphanages to baseball games. When the New York City newspapers went on strike, he got on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids. One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at the night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her; her daughter was sick; and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. “It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor,” the man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.” LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said, “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions. Ten dollars or ten days in jail.” But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous hat, saying, “Here is the ten-dollar fine which I now remit. Furthermore, I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.” The following day, New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to the bewildered woman who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren. Fifty cents of that amount was contributed by the grocery store owner himself; while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.
That story is one of my favorite stories about grace. What is grace? Grace is where God gives us what we need; not what we deserve. Justice is where we get what we deserve. The grandmother deserved to pay the fine (penalty) because she stole the bread. However, the mayor extended grace by giving her what she needed rather than what she deserved. That is exactly what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ. We deserve condemnation, death, and hell for our sin. BUT, God gives us what we need rather than what we deserve. God provides the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ. What a tremendous gift! Grace is the greatest gift!
Our theme for 2017 is Multiply. In order for us to multiply; in order for us to bring people to Jesus Christ, we must have a very solid and firm understanding of grace. Once we have that solid, firm understanding, then, we want everyone to be able to receive the same gift of grace that Jesus provides! How can we keep this great news to ourselves? How can we keep from sharing this great news?