Grace is not earned and neither is it appropriated or activated by some force or effort external to the gracious one. You don’t help yourself to grace; it is freely given by the benefactor without any act of the recipient. The gracious being does not wait for you to ask for graciousness. Grace is simply a part of who they are. Anyone, who has ever experienced those rare, truly gracious people, knows that. Maybe that rarity is the reason many don’t know true grace; they have never experienced it, in or out of the church.
Grace is not unmerited favor as so often suggested. Grace affirms merit and is driven by the conviction of inherent worth in others. Grace allows no room for contempt, condemnation, or perceptions of unworthiness of others. Grace is not about holding your nose while offering self help programs. Such may define duty or obligation or a seeking after righteousness through good works, but it certainly is not grace or love.
Church grace is more like a pot of food set out on a table with a “help yourself” sign. If anyone cannot get to the pot for any reason, they still go unfed. Real grace makes certain the starving person is fed.
Church grace is said to be amazing; but, when the subplot involving justice and retribution is exposed, the grace story becomes anything but amazing. Such a story of grace becomes just another product of the knowledge of good and evil, which has plagued humanity ever since Adam.
Amazing grace forsakes all judgment and condemnation. It does not mirror the typical egoic thinking and behavior which constantly seeks after a flawed human sense of justice. Unless one can be amazed by horror, church grace can never really amaze.