Grace: Responding with Piety and Mercy

Date Posted: 11/9/2016

Throughout the centuries, God has been extending grace to people through everyday practices. These means of grace, as John Wesley called them, continue to inform and enrich people of faith who put them into practice.

Chris Wilterdink, director of Young People's Ministries at Discipleship Ministries, said he views the means of grace as "the things we do to express our love for God, stay in touch with God, and love and serve our neighbor as ourselves."
These practices are not ways of earning grace but of responding to it, noted the Rev. Luther E. Smith Jr., professor emeritus of church and community at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

"We are not earning God's favor," Smith said. "God's favor is already given to us, and in light of that, we seek to respond to God's grace in a variety of expressions."

Many of the means of grace emphasized by Wesley are still significant today, Smith said.
"Care for the poor is one; another is Wesley's response to the issue of slavery. The various ways in which we are involved in the spiritual disciplines, prayer and communion, baptism – all of these, for Wesley, are ways in which we express our understanding of receiving and responding to God's grace," he said. "Both the (pietistic) dimensions and the social witness dimensions of this are very much a part of Wesley's commitment and have very much been part of the Methodist tradition."

Soaking up grace

Kathy Reiter, a spiritual director and retreat leader who attends A&M United Methodist Church in College Station, Texas, said she views the means of grace as "different containers that help us soak up grace."
"The means of grace are almost like buckets we can hold and catch the grace that's just abundant in our lives," she said. "Some of the different buckets we can hold are being in spiritual direction, attending retreats and participating in daily prayer."
Participating in the means of grace provides a way to grow deeper in faith, Reiter said…
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