In 1987, an IRA bomb buried Gordon Wilson and his twenty-year-old daughter beneath five feet of rubble. Gordon alone survived. And forgave. He said of the bombers, 'I have lost my daughter, but I bear no grudge . . . I shall pray, tonight and every night, that God will forgive them.' His words caught the media's ears -- and out of one man's grief, the world got a glimpse of grace. Grace is the church's great distinctive. It's the one thing the world cannot duplicate, and the one thing it craves above all else -- for only grace can bring hope and transformation to a jaded world. In this curriculum based on What's So Amazing About Grace? award-winning author Philip Yancey explores grace at street level. If grace is God's love for the undeserving, he asks, then what does it look like in action? And if Christians are its sole dispensers, then how are we doing at lavishing grace on a world that knows far more of cruelty and unforgiveness than it does of mercy? Yancey sets grace in the midst of life's stark images, tests its mettle against horrific 'ungrace.' Can grace survive in the midst of such atrocities as the Nazi holocaust? Can it triumph over the brutality of the Ku Klux Klan? Should any grace at all be shown to the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and cannibalized seventeen young men? Grace does not excuse sin, says Yancey, but it treasures the sinner. True grace is shocking, scandalous. It shakes our conventions with its insistence on getting close to sinners and touching them with mercy and hope. It forgives the unfaithful spouse, the racist, the child abuser. It loves today's AIDS-ridden addict as much as the tax collector of Jesus' day. In his most personal and provocative book ever, Yancey offers compelling, true portraits of grace's life-changing power. He searches for its presence in his own life and in the church. He asks, How can Christians contend graciously with moral issues that threaten all they hold dear? And he encourages groups of all sizes to discuss ways to become living answers to a world that desperately wants to know, What's So Amazing About Grace? 10 sessions; 1 120-minute video
Mention the word "grace" and what immediately comes to mind for most of us is a bagpipe wailing the solemn notes of "Amazing Grace."
The grace of which Philip Yancey writes is the freely given and unmerited favor and love of God. This grace seems a remote, almost sentimental concept, without a place in our lives or our society. It is a vague, slippery thing to us, probably because we seem to experience grace so rarely and have managed to leech the word of meaning. But Philip Yancey has set about to rescue grace in his book What's So Amazing About Grace?
This grace is the true message of Jesus. All faiths have virtues and creeds and justice and truth, but Jesus speaks merely of receiving the love that God has for us. Accepting it, not earning it or making ourselves worthy of it. And frankly, accepting something we have not earned or are not worthy of is not an easy thing for most of us.
In truth, grace is both utterly simple and utterly confounding. Little by little, Yancey guides us into a clearer understanding of grace by using stories, in much the same way Jesus did. We read stories of both grace and ungrace at work in people's lives. Sadly, it is stories of ungrace that are more prevalent today, the current culture wars painful acknowledgments of ungrace in our lives as Christians in this country. Yancey helps us understand that ungrace is that state of being in which self-righteousness and pride are a result of thinking that we have somehow earned God's approval and may now stand in judgment in his behalf.
Philip Yancey was awarded the Gold Medallion Christian Book of the Year award for this book in 1998 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Readers concurred with this decision, making this book an immediate bestseller. Believers and nonbelievers alike should accept Yancey's challenge to become agents of grace rather than agents of vengeance or judgment or anger. In truth, we are each starving for grace, ready to grasp it tightly. And it is through grace that all other hungers--for justice, for righteousness, for love--are satisfied. Yancey opens his book by telling us that "grace" is the last best word, and in What's So Amazing About Grace?, he proves that he's right. --Patricia Klein