There’s a famous story in the Bible about a chance meeting Jesus has with a Samaritan woman at a well in the desert. As you may know, there were all sorts of reasons why Jesus shouldn’t be talking to this woman, and yet he does so anyway. In this rather brief encounter, Jesus is able to confront a major source of brokenness in the woman’s life (her severed relationships with five husbands); he accepts her just as she is; and he offers her hope for the future. In short, Jesus did for this woman what Jesus does for all people – he offers her grace.
But just what is grace? For Christians, grace is the free and unmerited favor of God. Grace is a pure gift. It is offered to the holiest of us and to the worst scoundrel from among us. God knows our lives, our most triumphant moments, our worst failures, and everything in between. God sees us when we are at our best and at our worst. And there is never a moment, never a fraction of a moment when God withholds God’s grace from us. Grace is another word for the unlimited, unbridled love of God made most manifest in the sacrificial life and death of Jesus.
Grace has always been a scandalous thing for almost all us humans. Perhaps this is most true for those of us in the Church who should know better. But grace just seems too good to be true. Surely, we think, there must be some catch! God loves us, we often conjecture, but God also must expect something in return, right?
Well, while God may want us to live lives of love, God’s grace doesn’t hinge on our behavior. God’s love is offered freely and fully whether we get our act together or not. And so, while God may want us to live lives of love, God’s first and foremost desire is that we receive the love that God is offering.
Now, why would this be? Why would God be more intent on us receiving grace than on us giving grace? Because God knows a big secret…one can’t give what one doesn’t have. If we haven’t received love, we can’t give it either. The waters of love and life can’t be poured from the pitchers of our lives unless those same pitchers have first been filled up.
It’s all right there in the story of the woman at the well! After receiving just a drop of the waters of grace that Jesus offers, do you see what the woman does? She runs back to her town to tell all who may listen about this crazy Jewish rabbi named Jesus who is offering love, free and clear, to all comers. In fact, the story says she is so excited to share what she has received that, in running to her hometown, she forgets to bring her water pitcher with her! The grace she receives is immediately poured forth. And that is exactly how it’s supposed to work. It’s supposed to flow. Grace always originates with God whose very nature pours that same grace into the lives of all. God’s intent is that these same waters of grace will continue to flow throughout God’s entire creation.
So, our homework this week is not so much to learn how to give grace, but to learn how to receive grace. And the key to receiving grace is to acknowledge that it’s not about us, rather, it’s about God. God loves us not because we’re good but because God is good. So, receive the living waters of grace, freely given by God and let that grace flow. Allow it to flow into your life, and release it to spill out of your life and into the lives of all whom you encounter.