An interesting question started the discussion with a friend: “With the recent election of Mark Sanford to a Congressional seat in South Carolina, how much time has to elapse before a politician caught in a sex scandal can receive grace from the voters? Some politicians never see the light of day, where others recover fairly quickly. Sanford’s fall from grace was in 2009 and recently he’s been accused of violating his divorce decree, yet he gets elected again. Is 4 years enough time for grace to kick-in for politicians?
Needless to say it was an enlightening conversation as we explored “grace.”
Phil Yancey writes in What’s so Amazing About Grace? “Grace does not excuse wrong, but it treasures the wrongdoer. True grace is shocking, scandalous. It shakes our conventions with insistence on getting close to evil and touching it 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.”
It is comforting that grace emanates from God as a free gift: "...by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. " (Ephesians 2:8). Grace is God's unmerited favor and represents His goodness toward those who have no claim on, nor reason to expect, divine favor.
We can’t earn grace and there is nothing we can do that can take it away. God offers grace as his free gift to us, over and over again.
The conversation with my friend returned to grace and politics. I commented that I believe that grace is a spiritual condition and it wasn’t grace that got Sanford elected. As judgmental humans it is almost impossible for us to fully impart grace to others. We can try very hard to forgive and reconcile, but we usually expect that our forgiveness will be earned only through repentance and transformation.
Although God has given Mark Sanford grace, it wasn’t because he deserved it or earned it. It was the same gift of unlimited grace that God gives freely to us. As humans the voters measure their support with different yardsticks. Can he raise campaign money? Can he help other candidates? Does he still have the ability to influence powerful people in the political process? It’s not about grace, it’s about influence in the voters’ minds.
It’s hard to predict in politics if a politician can ever recover from a fall from grace; they are at the mercy of voter fickleness. It’s comforting to know that God doesn’t play favorites, never measuring our worth by how many people we know or how much influence we have. Instead everyone receives God’s grace without even asking, even fallen politicians.
May you rest in God’s grace today.
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