Growing up in a church environment as well as with a personal mindset that stressed personal holiness bordering on the elusive concept of “Christian perfection,” I did not have a firm grasp of the concept of ‘grace.’ Reading the Gospels, I understood mercy and the love of God, for sure, but grace seemed ill-defined and often misused throughout the universal Church. Reading Tozer, I could zealously agree with this statement: “We have come to our present low state as the result of an almost fanatical emphasis on grace to the total exclusion of obedience, self-discipline, patience, personal holiness, cross carrying, discipleship and other such precious doctrines of the New Testament.” (Tozer 2011, 116).
In many ways I still agree with that statement. The high calling of personal holiness is ingrained deep within my marrow, and I believe that there is a widespread misunderstanding of grace in our churches to this day. But for me, it was not until I read ‘The Hammer of God’ by Bo Giertz that I truly came to understand ‘grace’ on a personal level. The other day I came across this prayer from John Chrysostom that beautifully illustrates what I see as grace in its purest form:
“Know, O Lord my God, I am unworthy that You should enter beneath the roof of the temple of my soul, because it is all empty and dead. There is in me no worthy place where You may lay Your head. But since from Your loftiness You humbled yourself for our sake, please humble Yourself now toward my humility. And as it seemed good to You to lie in the cavern and in the manger with dumb beasts, so also now graciously lie in the manger of my dumb soul, and enter into my defiled body. Just as You did not refuse to enter into the house of Simon the leper, and there to sit at a meal with sinners, so also graciously enter into the house of my humble soul, which is leprous and sinful. Just as You did not feel loathing at the polluted lips of a sinful woman who kissed Your feet, so also do not loathe my even more defiled and polluted lips and unclean tongue. Amen.” – John Chrysostom