The Hidden Meaning of Grace
Have you ever heard a word so often that you almost forgot its meaning?
Some words are tossed around and used in so many different contexts that it becomes easy to lose sight of all the ideas wrapped up inside of a single word.
Additionally, words also have implied meanings. Consider, as examples, terrible tragedy, future plans, and true facts. These words are redundant because the elaborated meanings added by the additional words are already contained within the words. Let me explain.
A tragedy is terrible. No need to call it terrible. Plans are for the future, no need to call them future plans. And facts are true, no need to call them true.
You see, words have meanings contained within them already. And taking those meanings away would actually change the word. For example, if we took “true” away from facts we’d no longer have facts, just opinions.
But what does that have to do with helping someone we love who is dealing with an addiction?
Actually, a lot.
You see, one thing a struggling addict needs more than almost anything is grace. But what’s important is to understand what grace really is – to know what it means.
Depending on our church background and/or personal study, we have likely heard different definitions of grace. Most come close to something such as “God’s undeserved favor,” or “endless chances,” “God’s love for us in spite of us,” or something along those lines.
And those definitions, although good, are only baseline. But what are the additional meanings of the word – the hidden meanings, the implied meanings.
Well, the word grace actually has three implied meanings. It’s important to understand them because it is these meanings that give us context about how to give grace to people we love when they struggle through their addictions.
To do that, we’ll glance at each of the three hidden meanings contained within the word grace together.
Although grace is not cheap (Jesus died to give it to us), it is free. For grace to be grace, it cannot be earned.
This is important because we get hurt by the addicts we love. And we feel like they don’t deserve another chance – they don’t deserve grave. And that’s exactly the point.
They don’t deserve grace, but they do need it. And for them to get it, it has to be something they don’t deserve. Otherwise, by definition, if they had to earn it, it would no longer be grace.
Of the many aspects of the definition of true, one is particularly important here. For something to be true is needs to be verifiable. Therefore, in order to truly give grace to someone we love who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, we must give them something verifiable.
So, how can grace be verified in someone’s life. Well, according to Romans 2:4, God’s “kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” Now, God gives us kindness because of His grace. And He tells us that His kindness is intended to lead someone to repentance.
Notice, it says “lead you to…,” not completely do. I’m not saying that the person has to repent and change for grace to be truly in operation. I am saying that true grace will lead one in the direction towards a changed lifestyle.
That direction will almost certainly be filled with setbacks and failures. But that’s okay. It’s part of the process.
But to truly give grace, we must expect to see progress. Grace does not give the person the right to take advantage of us. It gives the person the right to take advantage of his or her opportunity to repent. That is true grace.
Now, for grace to be true, the person must apply it and walk toward repentance. That is, in many ways, beyond our control.
But there is another hidden meaning inside the word grace that totally depends on us – authentic.
Had Jesus died on the cross so that He could become famous (and had called it grace) it would not have been grace. It would have been manipulation. He would have been acting like He was giving us something but would have really been getting something for Himself.
That would not be grace. It is grace because He did it to give us what we needed to get set free even though we continuously hurt Him in the process.
When we give grace, it must be authentic. We cannot give it because we want the relationship to work since that would be in our best interest. We can’t give grace because of what people will think of us if we don’t.
The amount of pain and suffering we will have to go through to give grace to an addict is just too much for those sorts of motives.
The only way we can truly give grace is to do it authentically. And that means that we give it solely because we love the person and want him to succeed for himself. We want her to do better for herself. Doing it for the other person is what makes it authentic.
Therefore, your loved one cannot earn it. It must be free. (S)he has to apply it towards repentance because it must be true, and being true, it needs to be verified. And we cannot do it for ourselves. It has to be done for the other person. That’s what makes it authentic.
This is the only way to give true, authentic grace to the addict we love.