Common grace

Common grace from St Stephen’s & St Wulstan’s on Vimeo.

19 February 2021

Is the world beautiful, or is it broken?  Surely the answer is ‘both’.  And the present pandemic illustrates both.  The virus is evidence of the brokenness, while the efforts of medics, care workers and scientists are beautiful.  As Christians, we know why the world’s both beautiful and broken.  It’s still beautiful because God created it good.  It’s broken because human beings have rejected their Creator.  It’s not as beautiful as it should be, but nor is it as broken as it could be.

The Christian doctrine of common grace is critical to understanding why the world isn’t more broken.  It’s because God continues to show his grace even to a world that has turned its back on him.  He does so in two main ways.  First, God sustains his creation.  As Jesus says, he “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  Paul tells the people of Lystra: “[God] has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons.”  The sun still rises, and the flowers still bloom.

And it’s not only that God sustains life and gives us food.  James says that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”  So let’s thank God when we see parents doing a good job, teachers inspiring their students, neighbours looking after one another, care workers going the extra mile.

Second, God restrains human evil.  And he does so in a number of ways.  There’s conscience, which isn’t infallible, but which gives every human being a sense of right and wrong.  There are governing authorities, which are “God’s servants … to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”  There’s the godly influence of family, where most of us learn our values.  There’s public opinion, which may keep us from greater evil.  There’s the consequences of our actions.  Those who speak the truth, work hard and are kind to others normally do better than those who tell lies and are lazy and mean.

Common grace is not saving grace.  It is, as the name suggests, common to all people, and it won’t save anyone.  Yet it shows us God’s kindness.  We may reject the one who is life, and yet he keeps us alive.  We may define for ourselves what is good, and yet he keeps giving us really good things.  How foolish we are, then, if we “show contempt for the riches of his kindness … not realising that [it] is intended to lead us to repentance.”

Father, open our eyes to see the riches of your kindness; and open our hearts so that we may be truly thankful.  Amen.

Chris Hobbs, Senior Minister