Few words in Christian theology are used more or understood less than the word grace. Often heard are such phrases as God's grace and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. What does the word mean? How does it work in our lives? In theology the word is surrounded by an air of mystery. Actually it is a very simple explanation of the natural flow of the creative process in the individual.
The word grace means favor. Why are you favored as a child of God? Simply because you are the activity of God expressing himself as you. Why is your hand favored as a part of your body? Because it is your body at the point of your hand, designed to enable the body to carry out its objectives. Thus the hand has not only strength, but also feeling and tenderness.
God's will is another confused religious term. As long as we think of God as willfully bombarding our lives with capricious acts of limitation, there, is little hope that we can grasp the science of prayer. The will of God for you is the ceaseless longing of the creator to fulfill himself in and as that which he has created. If you miss this point you will think of grace as a kind of favoritism that you solicit through prayer. This will or creative intention is so great that, despite the power of the spoken word, you could say with feeling, "I wish I were dead!" and yet go right on living. God's will for you is so intense, so continuous, that it even filters through your willfully closed mind.
Grace is not a special movement in mind, or a special activity or gift of God. It is simply an explanation of the way mind works. Grace explains the inadequacy of the idea of karma, the endless cycle of cause and effect. It is true that "as you sow so shall you reap." Yet, God's desire to express through you and as you is so great that you never completely reap the harvest of error, and you always reap more good than you sow. A medical researcher says that the body is biased on the side of health. This is the grace factor that is absent in the classic concept of karma.
The missing link in the teachings of the East is that we are not lonely pilgrims on the path, trying to reach something in God. We are dynamic expressions of God on the quest to know and release something in ourselves. We may limit the flow of good, but we can always know the truth and be free.
You are not a helpless creature bobbing about like a cork on the seas of life, at the mercy of the storms of fate and circumstance. You are the very self-livingness of God. When you desire spiritual growth, it is God who has first desired it in you. When you make an extra effort in your work, it is the divine urge in you that is working through you. You are not simply a subject of God, with God making notations of sin and error, or of good, in his big black book. You are the activity of God in expression, beloved with an everlasting love.
Living in a state of grace is an expression often used to imply that the person has earned God's favor. It may be made to appear that by joining a church, or accepting a particular religious cliche, you get something special … that it's like knowing someone at City Hall who arranges to "fix" parking tickets.
Living in a state of grace can mean nothing more nor less than living in a disciplined awareness of the divine flow. God's flow is constant. Our experience of it changes with our consciousness.
This does not minimize the universal law of sequence and consequence. In the horizontal experience of life, we are bound to reap as we have sowed, but we have a choice to introduce into consciousness the vertical flow. Thus, on a higher level of consciousness, we are set free. We still pay the price, but on a higher level. It is like turning on a light. Darkness is no longer a factor.
The law of consciousness is inviolable. The high consciousness heals, and the low consciousness weakens. However, something of the infinite is always filtering through and becoming part of your consciousness. Thus, the most sordid or limited thought is modified by God's love in you. Grace is like living in a house with every door and window tightly closed. Invariably, there is enough air leaking in around doors and windows so that your oxygen needs are met.
Grace, as the divine favor, the activity of God's love, is working for you constantly. It is not dependent upon any special faith or prayer on your part. Like the buoyancy of water that will keep you afloat even when you try to force yourself under—grace fulfills divine law by sustaining you in spite of yourself.
You don't have to earn grace. It is not something that comes only to the good. It comes to all alike, because all alike are expressions of God. By the grace of God, a criminal is still loved by God and can still find forgiveness and ultimate rehabilitation through a love that transcends law.
Grace is simply a wonderful facet of the activity of God in you. It is not something you must work for or develop. It simply is. It is an assurance, an explanation of why things are never quite hopeless, and why we never receive the full harvest of the error we sow, and why we always receive a little more good than we earn.
Certainly, we must be willing to accept responsibility for all that is manifest in our lives. But don't get bogged down in the grim and fatalistic acceptance of "working out your karma." Truth can set you free. And when you hear, "He was healed by God’s grace," remember that this is no special act of God for one person, but a specialization of the divine "good pleasure" that is in every person.
There is an upward pull of the universe, ever seeking to lift you to the heights of your divine nature. It is as real and as inexorable as the force of gravity. The universe is calling … are you listening?