Reciprocal Grace.

Reciprocal Grace

By on February 2nd, 2011

And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise. (Luke 6:31)

The Golden Rule is something that as children many are required to memorize.  It is basic sandbox etiquette that mothers have tried to instill in their children for centuries.   Many people can tell you what the Golden Rule is but they are hard pressed to be able to tell you where to find it in the Bible.  This verse in the Gospel of Luke and also one located at Matthew 7:12 is what we know to be the Golden Rule.  So what does it have to do with grace, since the very word isn’t even used in either verse?

“. . .for this is characteristic of grace – we should serve in return one who has shown grace to us, and should another time take the initiative in showing it.” Nicomachean Ethics, Book V, Aristotle

Some 300 plus years before Jesus uttered the words recorded in Matthew and Luke, Aristotle had defined the characteristic of grace.  Now this might offend some people because they don’t think that anything that came out of the “pagan” culture could have anything remotely associated with a biblical truth.

I respect your rights to deal with this material in any manner that you desire but I want you to consider this before we proceed: Of the 27 books canonized in the New Testament, eight are written to church congregants that could trace their ancestry back to the time of Aristotle; two books are written to an influential Greek benefactor that also could possibly trace his heritage back to Aristotle; three books are written to overseers of churches located in this same region and describe how drawing on the cultural history will impact the new believer; and one book was written to church congregants that had deposed the Greek empire, integrated its population, and become the ruling empire of the age.  That means that over 50% of the New Testament was addressing the Greeks and not in word form only.  A simple reading of Luke’s account of Paul’s journeys clearly indicates that in many cases it wasn’t the Jews that welcomed the gospel message but the Greeks.  This is why I have proceeded down this path.  I have nothing against the Jews and their culture, they after all gave us the Messiah, it is just in order to understand the importance of grace we have to come at from the Greek culture where its very operation was already ingrained in the societal structure.

Knowing what we do about what Paul preached, what about it was so influential to a pagan culture that it eventually took over the entire region? Simple: Paul spoke about grace that came from Heaven in the form of Jesus.  It wasn’t a Jewish Messiah that these listeners heard about; it was about the reciprocal nature of grace in the exchange that Jesus made for them.  They lived this reciprocal lifestyle in their community, their poets and philosophers had written about this nature of grace for centuries, and now they were hearing how God was interacting with them on the same basis.  Their own gods never conducted themselves in this manner – even the Charites who were known as “The Three Graces” never operated in this fashion!  And now hearing this they experienced the foundational component of grace: Joy.

We have lost this understanding today much to the disadvantage of new believers.  There is much more to this characteristic of grace that we’ll be exploring in the study ahead of us, but I want this to be the point of demarcation where what you’ve thought you knew about grace could possibly be incomplete.

Grace and Peace to You