Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

church Grace versus graciousness



The concept of grace and mercy are prominent in Christian theology. Both are an outgrowth of the church's understanding of divine justice. Grace and mercy are necessary because otherwise God is forced to exact judgment and punishment.


Under this paradigm, grace and mercy accentuate the fact that each individual is inherently unworthy of God's attention and concern. The purported effect of divine grace and mercy is to exalt God and to emphasize the lowly state of mankind. God condescends to extend unmerited favor to those who rightfully deserve condemnation. He operates out of the goodness of His heart, but only after stressing over and over how contemptible and unworthy men really are.


This theological understanding may sound noble at first glance, but subconsciously it raises serious questions. Why does God hold mankind in such low regard? We are the result of His creative efforts, made in His image according to the scriptures. How could a worthless mankind be the result? How could the One defined as Love simultaneously harbor such low opinion of the object of that Love?


In pondering all these questions, I consider the difference between the church's idea of grace as unmerited favor and a less commonly used word, "graciousness". Grace, as defined above, exalts the granter of grace while it diminishes the recipient. Grace is not grace if the recipient is at all worthy of regard and affection. The goodness of grace lies solely with the one giving it. The lack of goodness and worth in the recipient is the very reason why grace is necessary in the first place.


If one compares grace to graciousness, we note a striking difference. Graciousness, according to the dictionary, is marked by kindness and courtesy. Those individuals who display true graciousness, make even strangers in their midst feel appreciated and welcomed. Graciousness is an attitude which projects worthiness and elevates the one who is the target of that graciousness, with no hint of condescension. Graciousness flows from the basic character of the gracious one and elevates both grantor and recipient.


Unlike church defined grace, divine graciousness is not psychologically debilitating, demanding self loathing and the associated guilt, anxiety, and emotional turmoil. A gracious God is one that all men can appreciate, not for His might and self exaltation, as projected by conventional theology, but because of a true majesty which eclipses any conventional measure of greatness.