“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
By Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell
A few months ago I had a conversation with a young woman who asked me to explain the word “grace” as used in the name of Grace and Race Ministries, Inc. She acknowledged hearing the word in church and using it at home in the context of the brief prayer before a meal. But, what does “grace” mean as a practical matter for an individual in the midst of racial animosity?
I began by stringing together a few of the often-heard standard definitions and explanations of the word grace:
• Grace is the unmerited favor of God.
• Grace and mercy go together as God’s action toward us.
• Grace is getting what you don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what you do deserve from God.
• Because we are God’s children, we strive to model God’s ways toward others.
• We have received grace and, therefore, must become agents of grace…
We will not all show grace in the same manner. There may not be many of us who are committed to turning the other cheek, as Jesus taught, when subjected to racist behavior. Some people may utter a prayer or give a look of disapproval and walk away- refusing to dignify the action and ignorance with a spoken reply. Some people may take a deep breath and then offer a response without the use of profane and inflammatory language. Other people may start justice movements to disrupt racism. The options for grace are limited only by human frailties. But for Christian believers, showing grace to others is accepting the challenge to demonstrate a Christ-like response, even if the person does not deserve it. This does not negate the fact that there are times when we must push back and correct improper language and behavior but God gets the glory from our lives when we can respond to racial hate speech and actions without an “eye-for-an-eye” or “tooth-for-a-tooth” hostile mentality. It’s hard. But that’s grace from our mere mortal perspective.
On July 26, 2017 Michelle Obama made a speech including remarks about her experience as America’s first black first lady. She expressed her awareness of the reality “that after eight years of working really hard for this country, there are still people who won’t see me for what I am because of my skin color.” She referenced the numerous racist attacks and insults she faced while President Barack Obama was in office.
Remembering her life in that role reminded me of an easier, practical way to define grace, especially in the midst of racial animosity – “When they go low, we go high.” I offer heartfelt thanks to Michelle Obama for the profound wisdom in those words.
That is grace.