I have started my new classes and I want to Share something from my New Testament class. This is found in the book Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity by David A deSilva.
deSilva discribes what grace was seen as in the first century which is captured by a Statue three Goddesses, the three graces who dance hand in hand in a circle, and here is what the quote is.
Some would have it appear that there is one for bestowing a benefit, one for receiving it, and a third for returning it; others hold that there are three classes of benefactors-those who receive benefits, those who return them, those who receive and return them at the same time... Why do the sisters hand in hand dance in a ring which returns upon itself? For the reason that a benefit passing in its course from hand to hand returns nevertheless to the giver; the beauty of the whole is destroyed if the course is anywhere broken and it has most beauty if it is continuous and maintains an uninterrupted succession... Their faces are cheerful, as are ordinarilythe aces of those who bestow or receive benefits. They are young because the memory of benefits ought not to grow old. They are maidens beacuse benefits are pure and holy and undefiled in the eyes of all; [their robes] are transparent because benefits desire to be seen. (Ben. 1.3.2-5)
Here is a picture of grace. first there is the gift, the gift is recived, and then the reciver gives back thier gratitude. there are three parts of grace. The giver gives a gift and the reciver is then put in debt to the giver. If the reciever wishes to show thier gratetude should, even at the receiving, begin to think about how they will return the favor. However the giver should never think about what they will receive for thier gift. And when they recive a favor for the gift they gave they should belive that they have been repaid, yet a truly grateful person should never feel that they have done enough. And thus the dance continues.
That is the Greek first century veiw of what grace is. A Dance.
I could not help think how simple this made the complex concept of Grace. how beautiful it became, so completely other, and yet tangable.
God is of course our giver, he is ofcourse the giver or our very breath, and second the giver of our salvation. we then are the reciever. we reciever the gift and to show our gratitude by our actions. this would be where James comes in when he says, "show me your faith with out works, and I will show you my faith by works." with this image we see that works are a showing of faith because it is the returning of the gift, the expression of gratitude. From the book Benefactor which is by Sophocles who deSilva quotes goes on to say, The one should consider that he has received the return of his benefit, whaile the others should know that he has not returned it; the one should release the other, while the other should feel himself bound; the one should sayu I have received, the other I still owe. (Ben 7.16.1-2) God has received our gratitude but we are never done returning because like mary who poured out the oil onto Jesus's feet we feel we can never do enough to show our gratitude.
There is another way to look at this because it is a Dance. and a Dance only works as long as all the people are moving together. My causin is a ballroom dancer and he can probably tell some great stories about when he took me dancing because I had such a hard time letting him follow. when the dancers do not move together it becomes a mess, and ugly.
God is the giver, but when we try to return the gift before we will accept it. we want to pay god before we can accept his free gift. that is legalism, that is when works become an attempt to earn what God has done. and it is a slap in the face of the giver. because Paul tells us that our works are like filthy rags when we try to pay for the gift of salvation. and when he says filthy rags he is talking about the rags women used when Aunt Floo comes to visit.
When we Try to earn our salvation we are not showing gratitude, we actually are showing ingratitude. and impuning God's honor.
But when we recieve his gift and show our gratitude we actually increase his honor and the dance continues. We can never fully pay back God for all that he has done, but God does not keep track either so it is best to just continue to show our gratitude so that the dance continues to be beautiful.