United Methodists understand grace as a gift from God, “the undeserved, unmerited, and loving action of God in human existence through the ever-present Holy Spirit.”
Bishop Will Willimon describes grace as "the power of God working in you to give you a transformed life."
We experience three kinds of grace in our life with God — prevenient, justifying and sanctifying.
Prevenient grace literally means "the grace that comes before." Prevenient grace calls us into a relationship with God before we are even aware of God. It prepares us for the dawning awareness that God loves us so much that God seeks us out first.
Justifying grace happens when Christians abandon all those vain attempts to justify themselves before God, to be seen as “just” in God’s eyes through religious and moral practices. When God’s “justifying grace” is experienced and accepted, it’s a time of pardon and forgiveness, of new peace, joy and love.
Sanctifying grace enables us to grow into the image of Christ and leads to inward and outward holiness.
On the gift of grace, Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby explained, "Grace, God acting in our lives, is truly free. However, we know that from God's side, grace is costly. The cross is a stark response of how costly grace is to God. To give ourselves to God in response to this grace costs us our lives.
"However, there is a greater cost — the cost of not responding, the cost of non-discipleship. When we don't respond to God's grace it costs us peace with God, the peace of God, the joy of knowing that we belong to God, and the power of God working in our lives to accomplish what we simply cannot accomplish on our own."
Peace and grace are related. We experience peace, individually and as a community, as we respond to God’s grace. "Peace gives Christians the ability to have grace when facing enemies, an inward knowledge of and conformity to the will of God, a spiritual blessing, and a sense of calm and assurance, a trust that cannot be willed into existence but can only be felt when it is given. Peace found throughout the community and world is considered a sign of God's kingdom as envisioned by Jesus Christ.” (The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation)
This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.