(I post this one for my wee brother - an old 'Food for thought' newspaper column)
Ireland's greatest rock band? Certainly. The best in the world? Possibly. Theologians? Not likely.
Yet tucked away on their last album were two lines of profound truth. The song is "Grace", the lines are:
"She walks outside of karma"and"Grace makes beauty out of ugly things"
Karma is the central rule of many eastern religions. If you do bad to others, bad will come to you. Or to put it in the words of another band, "Karma: what you give is what you get returned". Grace on the other hand is undeserved kindness. It's when someone has wronged you and you respond, not with vengeance or righteous anger, not even with forgiveness, but with actually going out of your way to show kindness to them. That's grace - it breaks the vicious cycle.
God's grace is the undeserved kindness he shows to us. We have done wrong and deserve to be punished. For no reason, he offers forgiveness to us, and not only that but the opportunity to enjoy eternal bliss. That's grace. Undeserved kindness to those who deserve eternal punishment. It is outside of karma, far beyond what we have ever done, or could ever deserve.
The real beauty of grace is that it gives hope - no-one is too bad for God's grace to change. U2 have hit the nail on the head exactly "Grace makes beauty out of ugly things". Karma only gives a false hope to the good, and deep down we all know that not one of us is good enough; karma offers nothing to those who have led a bad life and want to change. But grace does.
As Bob Marley once sang "Is there a place for the hopeless sinner?" - God's answer is a resounding "Yes." Grace makes beauty out of ugly sinners.
Grace is entirely from God, we do not earn it - grace isn't grace if you merit it. Yet we are saved only by grace. All we have to do is come to God and say "I'm a hopeless sinner, show me your grace."
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:4-8
We can believe it.