By Marty Troyer
I’m a huge fan of novels and movies. Many profound light-bulb moments have come at the feet of unexpected mentors such as Tolkien, Rowling, McCarthy, Anderson, and O’Connor. For instance, one meaning filled image of “stewardship” I have comes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rinds trilogy. In these books, he introduces a family of stewards of the kingdom of Gondor. Functioning in place of a king, their primary function was to hold the throne for the time when a king would return. With all the responsibility and most of the rights of royalty, they remained clearly not kings. They were stewards and caretakers. They stewarded something that belonged to another. They did not possess the throne, they held it only to give it away.
1 Peter 4:10-11 says that we are stewards of God’s grace. We are given God’s grace not for our own sake, not to possess it or because it belongs to us. No, we steward God’s grace by holding it in order to give it away. Peter’s letter drips with talk of grace, which for him was the only real, tangible way we encounter God. It is the very Spirit and character of God. I’m reminded of the Father’s radical welcome of the prodigal sons, Jesus counter-cultural defense of women and those on the fringe, the prophetic insistence on inclusion of the lost, the least, the last. Though nurturing, God’s grace is no ooey-gooey stereotypically feminine characteristic. It is strong, capable of rewriting DNA and relationship. Indeed, it is the only power with the capacity to bring change to the human heart! George Brunk III says that “Grace is the place God meets us and converts us to godliness, and holiness.” So when Peter says in 1:2, ‘May grace and peace be yours in abundance,’ I say yes! Yes, give me some more please! Who wouldn’t want in on that?
But clearly for Peter the ‘abundance of grace’ is meant to spill out into the world for others. As stewards of grace, we are to serve one another rather than rest in our personal “blessings.” Like any body of water, unless water can both flow in and out, the water will stagnate and spoil. This text, along with 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4 speaks of “spiritual gifts” that God gives to God’s people for the sake of loving others. But a better translation of the greek charismata would be “grace gifts,” or perhaps “gracing.” It’s our individual ability to grace others, to be and give grace to them.
Folks, this to me is a captivating, strong, and beautiful definition of both ministry and evangelism, the lines between which are suddenly blurred beyond repair. We’re called to both be and to give grace to others. The shape our “gracing” others takes depends on our individual gifting (speaking, serving, etc…) but we’re all called to grace others. Imagine how different Christianity would be viewed if we were known as “gracers” instead of evangelizers and judgers? Imagine how different your workplace, neighborhood, family and church would be if you lived to grace others? Imagine the feeling of volunteering not out of oughts and shoulds, but out of the overflow of your own internal sense of grace and peace?
It should surprise no one these words come from Peter, whose journey was one of constant transformation by the grace of Christ in his life. Grace in Peter’s life unsettled nations, and like Jesus, ultimately cost him his life. Grace, apparently, is both contagious and confusing. It is contagious because at our core, humanity longs for nothing more than wholeness, to find ourselves in the family of things. Confusing, because from birth the one life lesson no one has ever had to teach us is that we have fallen short. Grace proves that instinct dead wrong by creating wholeness in previously scattered and pathological hearts.
So, if grace is where God meets us and shapes us to give like Jesus gave- may it be yours in abundance! Anything less wouldn’t be worth sharing anyway.