Grace (as an aspect of conviction)

Today’s topic is ‘Grace as an aspect of Conviction’.

Grace can be thought of as God smiling on us. Abdullah says that Grace is a form of love from God.

I am sure we can all find examples of how we have been smiled upon by God, For example, we live here in a very comfortable country, and we also have the opportunity to learn about all of the world’s great religions.

The Holy Prophet Mohammed tells us to trust in God but that we must also make our own best efforts. Abdullah says that this shows how grace works. If God smiles on someone, that person will have played their own part in it somewhere along the way. Some people think of grace as being some kind of cosmic freebie, but Abdullah says that it is an act of complete and inescapable justice.

Swami Ramdas of Kerala says “Grace comes to a person and no-one knows why it comes to them”. Abdullah adds that we have to remember that we may have lived a previous life 500 or a thousand years ago where that grace had been earned. He also reminds us that grace can come in the form of a tragedy that wakes us up, just as easily as it can come in a pleasant form.

The first story is from Abdullah’s book ‘Mirrors’:

There was a man who didn’t have much faith in God, but one day he heard a saint saying that God always looks after those who remember him and pray to him, so he thought he would give it a try to see if it worked.

He went into the forest and sat down and chanted God’s name. About midday a man came by and seeing him chanting thought he must be a very religious man, so he gave him some food. Now the man who had been chanting thought, I wonder if this is just coincidence. So he decided to make the test harder. So he walked to a remote area and he came to a high hill. He climbed up the hill and found a hollow tree and sat down inside it and started chanting God’s name again. He thought if God is going to look after me he has his work cut out for him way out here.

At the base of the hill there was a lake and meanwhile some young people had set out on a boat to have a picnic on one of the other shores. But they had been blown sideways by strong winds and the boatman had decided to pull the boat up on the beach. They tried to have their picnic on the beach but the sand was blowing in their food, so they decided to climb up the hill to try to find a better place.

When they got to the top of the hill they found the man chanting God’s name and they were so impressed by his devotion that they gave him some food.

Abdullah says that this story shows that God does look after us if we put our trust in Him and this is an example of Grace.

The second story is from Zen Buddhism.

Many years ago in Japan a young man called Zenkai was the son of a Samurai. When he left home he travelled to Edo, which was the capital, and became the assistant to a high government official. But he fell in love with the official’s wife. The official found out and tried to kill him, but Zenkai defended himself and killed the official, and then he ran away with the official’s wife.

Both of them became thieves to survive, but the woman was so greedy that Zenkai became disgusted with her, so he left and travelled to a place called Buzen where he lived rough.

After a while, Zenkai decided he needed to do something good in his lifetime to make up for the trouble he had caused in his youth. He knew there was a dangerous road around a nearby cliff and that many people had died crossing that road. So he decided to cut a tunnel through that part of the mountain.

So Zenkai would work on the tunnel at night, and beg for food during the day, and all the time he tried to remember to pray, saying the name of the Lord Buddha over and over again. After 28 years the tunnel was as long as six rugby fields and not much remained to connect through to the other side.

However – the son of the official he had killed many years ago was now a skilled swordsman. He had been looking for Zenkai and had finally found where he was living and came to kill him in revenge. He confronted Zenkai, but Zenkai said,

“You can take my life and I will not resist, but please let me first finish this tunnel, for the good of the people. On the day it is completed you may cut off my head.”

The son thought about this, and because the tunnel seemed a good thing, he agreed to wait. As the months passed, Zenkai kept on digging and repeating the name of the Buddha. Eventually the son grew tired of watching Zenkai dig, so he began to help with the digging. After he had helped for more than a year he came to admire Zenkai’s strong will and selfless character and constant prayer. After two years the tunnel was completed and the people could use it and travel safely.

 “Now cut off my head” said Zenkai, “My work here is done”.

 The younger man looked at Zenkai, and with tears in his eyes, he said, “I could never cut off my own teacher’s head.”

 This story again tells us that God does smile on us if we put our trust in Him.

Abdullah tells us that Grace is operating all the time, and that as our spirit grows we get better at recognising it.

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