Are We Saved By Good Works or God’s Grace?

An Episcopalian’s Interpretation of Recent Traumatic Events

Raised an Episcopalian, I have always been encouraged to think for myself and question the scriptures. For me, the Bible has always been a compilation of metaphors, symbolism, and opinions. In my particular brand of Christianity, literal interpretation of the Bible has never been a requirement. As a result, my education has included science, philosophy, mathematics, and more.

In high school, I learned about the term, “God’s grace.” As an Episcopalian, I had never heard of the term, “saved.” My religion simply existed as part of my life and ethnicity – my family has been Episcopalian or Anglican since 1533. The dual concept of being “saved by God’s Grace” also entered my consciousness during this time period. My religion teacher explained to me that Christians make it into heaven, not by works, but by faith, and that Grace is a gift freely given by God to us, as long as we believe. During my high school years, this concept mattered little to me. A rebel without a cause, my time in religion class consisted of arguing needlessly with religion teachers about whether or not Christianity comprised “the one true religion.”

These questions are for the ages, and for many, mean very little, until real tragedy strikes, and we are forced to reexamine the role these concepts actually play in our daily lives. Despite my obstinance, the teachings regarding God’s grace did resonate with me. I remember contemplating whether our eternal lives rested in good works or God’s grace. In many ways, I felt it might be a combination of these two concepts-that perhaps good works resulted from God’s grace. I also felt that these concepts might only matter on a theoretical level, holding little actual value.

Last Friday, my car hydroplaned, did a 360 turn, and then crashed into the guard rail. As the car spun out of control, I closed my eyes and “gave it to God.” After the car came to a stop, I realized that, while the car had suffered profound damage, everyone in the car remained unharmed. A supreme being, the universe, or God’s grace had saved us.

That Sunday, my mother-in-law passed away suddenly. While suffering from cancer for many years, she had actually been doing quite well. But when death came, it came quickly, and without much warning.

“Grace may be defined as the unmerited or undeserving favor of God to those who are under condemnation.” – Enns 2. My life and behavior have not always been perfect, and Lord knows there have been times when I most certainly did not deserve God’s grace. However, these two back to back tragedies resulted in an unmerited gift, that I did not deserve, but nevertheless received. My worries of having to take on a new car payment quickly disappeared, as my late mother-in-law’s SUV suddenly transferred into my possession. At this point, I believed in God and its presence in my life. I recognized that I am not in control and that some sort of a higher power is.

As I recall this story of God’s grace upon me to others, their eyes light up, and they realize it’s impact on this particular situation. As a cradle-born Episcopalian, I question scripture and I think for myself. However, this compilation of events has demonstrated to me that God’s grace is real. I did not deserve it, but received it anyway, because God’s grace is not earned, but instead freely given. As the priest says at the end of every church service,” Go in faith to love and serve the Lord.” And that I shall do, from this day forward.

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