The Adaptability of Grace
by margarita ramirez and mckenzie nelson
Remember in Genesis when God made humans and some stuff went wrong and God had to banish Adam and Eve from the garden to toil the land? The first storyline we get from Scripture regarding who we are as humans involves perhaps the greatest feat of adaptability imaginable. Right from the start, we see that God made humans to be flexible, adaptable, clever, resourceful—otherwise, God would have known that God was sending Adam and Eve to certain death. Apparently, God knew Adam and Eve would adapt outside Eden and make it work.
We were, after all, made in the image of God, and no one is more adaptable than the God we serve. God tried every way possible to have God’s grace to reach Israel. You need deliverance from Egypt? Let’s do it! You need food? Manna from heaven! Oh, you need a king now? Ok, let’s try it! You’re captive in Babylon and need a reminder of my promises? Here you go! If you read scripture with special attention to this, you will find that God is not rigid in how God shows grace. God is infinitely creative in meeting people where they are.
And that is never clearer than in Jesus’s interactions with humans. You won’t find some bullet-point version of the Gospel, or Good News, in anything Jesus said. The Good News he brought was always in the context of what people needed. The Good News of Jesus that the blind man encountered in John 9 came in the form of healing and restored sight. But Jesus’s message to the rich young man in Matthew 19 was to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor. It seems like sometimes grace comes in the form of a stern talking-to. In John 4, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the well, and in an intimate and almost playful conversation, Jesus gives the woman hope that one day Jews and Samaritans will be reconciled. That is the grace that Jesus shares with her—a message of hope for an oppressed people. When a bleeding woman fights through a crowd to try to touch Jesus’s cloak in search of healing in Matthew 9, Jesus does give her physical healing, but he also offers her human touch and recognition after she had gone unacknowledged for so long. Grace, it seems, can sometimes be as simple as a kind moment that recognizes those who are invisible in society. And in the middle of a sermon on a hill, when the crowd started to get hangry (hungry-angry) Jesus set aside whatever wonderfully thought out sermon he had planned and took some fish and bread, multiplied them, and fed the crowd. Jesus might have planned to share grace and the Good News through his words, but grace that day took the form of soft bread and fresh fish. And Jesus adapted. The love and grace of Jesus Christ, in his own life, was flexible, adaptable, and right for the moment.
Just like the many people Jesus met and spoke to, we’re all different and the Good News is different to all of us. When we read the Bible, we see or hear something unique to us. The places we’ll find grace in the new reality of Coronavirus will be different for each of us too. Some distilleries have stopped making liquor and have started producing hand sanitizer, and some fashion houses are producing personal protective equipment for medical professionals. Here in Arlington, neighbors have turned on their sewing machines to start making cloth masks for hospitals. Empty store shelves, people wearing gloves, social distancing—it’s all starting to feel like the new normal. It has only been a week but we seem to be adapting in countless ways. (Except for cats. Cats still don’t seem to like having their humans at home.) Maybe you, too, have been surprised by the amazing adaptability and resourcefulness of humans. But this was probably no surprise to God.
Communion might not be at the rail or by intinction, but maybe right now communion looks like gathering around the dinner table and sharing a mishmash of non-perishable food items from the pantry. Fellowship looks like Sunday School email chains with updates, and right now the gathering space looks like a Zoom conference. Worship is on screens in our homes, and I know my off-key singing is no replacement for Dr. Shaner and the choir, but that’s what I got right now. It looks different than it did a few weeks ago, but the grace we receive from it is the same.
Right now, school looks like worksheets, hanging out looks like Skype, and working looks like wearing PJ’s on the couch. Right now, loving your neighbor means staying away from them. Compassion for the vulnerable means washing your hands. Right now, the Good News that store clerks need is a smile, a “thank you” and infinite patience. God made Eve because God knew that Adam could not do it all on his own and we are truly discovering that others are our greatest resource... even at 6 feet apart. It is not what we are used to defining as work, school, love, or compassion. It all looks so different, but grace, just like God, remains the same—ever as adaptable, flexible, and resourceful.
- Margarita and McKenzie