In October 2015, the posh Citizen Hotel in Sacramento hosted a banquet like never before. What happened is an everyday example of grace, a gift neither earned nor deserved. Since grace describes God’s love and rejoicing over mankind, such examples help us visualize the Gospel.
The story begins with Quinn Duane being within a week of her long-anticipated wedding day. Plans for the ceremony and dinner reception were complete. But in a phone call to her mother, she explained that the groom got cold feet and canceled. Since the reception was non-refundable, replacing disappointment with generosity, they hatched a plan to invite homeless souls to a meal they wouldn’t forget.
So on a beautiful fall day in California, with the help of several homeless shelters, about 90 homeless men, women, and children, some in dress clothes, filed into the fancy venue and dined on gnocchi, salmon, and tri-tip beef with all the trimmings. For the moment, they were free from their hard lives in the streets while enjoying a feast they could not have imagined before now. It cost them nothing other than accepting the invitation.
This story is almost identical to one chronicled by Philip Yancy in What’s So Amazing About Grace? He retells other true stories. A teenage girl runs away only to become a prostitute in Detroit, and after becoming sick and homeless she returns to the welcoming arms of her family. A vagrant in New York dumpster-dives for restaurant toss-outs, and finds a lottery ticket that pays $243,000 for each of the next 20 years. A venture capitalist refuses to accept the repayment offer from an entrepreneur in Los Angeles when the startup fails due to world events. Yancy follows Jesus’ example of storytelling about grace in an attempt to overcome our natural resistance to it.
We have a difficult time with God’s grace because we want a god that responds only to efforts and achievements, or lack of. It doesn’t seem fair that God loves the world (John 3:16) and its prodigals. That love does not mean he winks at sin. No, sending the Son to suffer and die was no trivial matter, but He did it before you loved Him back. You will have a hard time earning God’s love if it existed in extravagance before you were even born.
One of Jesus’s stories was about a wedding feast for the king’s son. The first group of invitees was unwilling, and abused the messengers. Then the king said, “Go to the main highways, and as many as you find there invite to the wedding feast” (Mat. 22:9). Jesus has prepared his own great banquet, and the invitations have been issued. It is an invitation to receive His gift of love. And that, friend, is amazing grace.