Nixon, Ford, and grace

Years ago I taught a lesson on grace. I mean, I’ve taught many lessons on grace since and I sincerely hope every lesson I teach contains the truth of gospel grace but this is a specific lesson I have in mind.

I was a novice teacher, completely inadequate and unworthy of any teaching authority, same as now, but so much the novice then that my “notes” were handwritten in pencil and comprised less than half a sheet of paper.

I know this because I found them recently, my notes from this particular lesson, stuck in the back of my old Bible.

And I’m not saying that typewritten notes equate skill or worth as a teacher. Rather, I’m making the observation that in my teaching timeline handwritten notes are proof of the early days, those early days marked, as most early days of anything are, by ignorance and lack of experience.

Anyway, the notes aside, I remember this particular lesson quite well because I was seeking to develop class conversation on the definition of grace. We discussed various examples, me offering the pardon of President Nixon by President Ford as grace because, well, Nixon, as you know, didn’t receive what was due him in terms of justice and the consequences therein.

After the class one of my fellow students remarked “Well…now we all know where you stand politically, Lisa.”

I imagine she was teasing but I was devastated. Not only was I completely unaware of taking any sort of political stance in course of my lesson but I was dismayed that of all the points I’d attempted to make in my treatise on grace, this was what she remembered. Nixon and Ford. And politics of all things.

As I look back on it part of me laughs at myself and part of me remains chagrined particularly as I realize it wasn’t even a good example of grace, not of Biblical gospel grace. No, in the grace of the gospel the penalty isn’t waived as it was for Nixon, it was instead paid in full and by a completely innocent, infinitely holy substitute. A pardon excuses the offense so there is no justice served. In the gospel God is both just and the justifier; thus justice is not violated but satisfied through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He took our sin and purchased for us His righteousness.

This is grace. Not merely a pardon but full and complete forgiveness in Christ and His perfect righteousness credited to my account. A gift. Wholly unmerited. Bought and paid for through Christ.

I deserve justice. He took my place and gave me grace.

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Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger