Grace - the unmerited, undeserved, love of God. Because grace is God's love that is undeserved it's open to everyone. It is not mine to give. It belongs to God who has offered it to everyone. If you wonder where it is in the Bible here are my 3 go to places:
John 3:16-17 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Genesis 1:1-5 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
I start with John chapter 3 because it clearly tells us that everything that God did and does is for the love of the world and by extension everything that is in it - humans, animals, plants - the whole shebang. I move to chapter 1 as the reminder that Jesus & God are one in the same and together from the beginning and that through his life we have the light that shines. Finally, I remember the first day of creation as the day that God brought forth light in the world - the true light and called it good. These are my 3 foundational scriptures for what God is doing in the world - loving the whole of creation.
I think we are all onboard here but it's the next step where we struggle. We're ok if God loves us and even if God loves those we love but we struggle (and by we, I mean me and you) with the concept that God can love those that we hate. I believe scripture to be the word of God. I believe my hatred & fear of snakes to be Biblical - Genesis 3:15 "I will put enmity between you and the woman." And yet God didn't remove snakes from creation, nor did God remove God's love from snakes. I've worked hard in the last 3 years to not just HATE all snakes but to understand the place they have in creation. And more than that know that if there were not snakes, other animals that I love would lose a major food source and other animals that I tolerate would grow out of control.
God's grace is extended to ALL of creation - those things & people we love and those things & people we struggle to love. We, as the beloved children of God are called to practice love. But love does not mean that we let ourselves and each other live however we want. No "love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Because I love, I to listen to others.
Because I love, I to understand others.
Because I love, I speak the truth.
Because I love, I don't give up.
Because I love, I will endure.
I do not do ANY of things without the Grace of God. I cannot because I am imperfect and human. But God can do all these things. So I keep trying and striving to live into the call of God's love for me and for you.
Until I had moved to the South, I had never heard of Juneteenth. I heard it in passing while living in Atlanta but honestly thought it was the beginning of the summer when all the hot, humid days blended into each other. When I moved to Texas and began serving in Port Arthur, I learned the true meaning of Juneteenth. Today is important in all our lives.
"Juneteenth started as a Texas state holiday, but is now celebrated annually on the 19th of June throughout the United States to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger announcing federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, proclaiming that all slaves in Texas were now free. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed them almost two and a half years earlier and the American Civil War had largely ended with the defeat of the Confederate States in April, Texas was the most remote of the slave states, with a low presence of Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth)
None of us are perfect in loving. In fact we all have work to do. The Good News is that we do not have to work alone because we are all in this work together. The Best News is that God's grace extends to us in the process & practice of learning. We must learn our history and there are awful things of our past. If do not learn them - not just from our history books but from each other we will repeat the past. We believe that God LOVES. We do not get to choose who or how because God so loved the world. I am learning to love snakes (God help me). I am learning more history of racism in this country and what we can do continue to dismantle it. This is hard work. This is painful work. This is holy work. This is necessary work. I will get it wrong but making mistakes is not a reason to stop. When we extend God's grace to each other in this process we begin to get a glimpse of God's kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven.