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The Rev. Dr. Peter Samuelson The Rev. Dr. Peter L. Samuelson

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Norwegian Grace

October 12, 2009


The news that President Obama has received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize has gotten me thinking about grace.  Much of the language and commentary surrounding this event sounds a lot like language we use when we talk about God’s grace:


1) It is undeserved.

Here is what President Obama said in response to the news of the Prize award:

"To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace."

We speak of Grace in this way.  Paul said, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).  There is no way to “earn” God’s grace and favor, it is simply given as a free gift.


2) It is scandalous.

The airwaves, newspaper  editorial pages and blogosphere all fairly erupted in opinions about the scandalous nature of this award.  “He has done nothing to deserve it,” is a typical response.  “This just reinforces his ‘Messiah’ complex” others have said.   Some think it cheapens the prize,  and question the standards of the Nobel Prize committee.   Still others wonder if it won’t be an embarrassment  to President Obama and the Nobel prize committee if he does not live up to their expectations.

This is the nature of grace.  We are almost hardwired to think that actions have direct and logical consequences.  You do well, you are rewarded.  You do badly, you are punished (or will not achieve the reward).  God’s grace scandalizes us.  Paul called it a “stumbling block” for Jews and “foolishness” to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23).  


3) Grace inspires a response.

President Obama felt compelled to live up to the meaning of the award.  He said:

"And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century." (Click here for the full text of his statement.)

Some have speculated that the Nobel Prize committee was trying to influence his choices on the world stage, in Afghanistan for example, or in the Middle East.  President Obama did not take it this way.  Instead he viewed it as an opportunity to work for the ideals of peace, justice  and reconciliation that the Nobel Prize upholds.

God’s grace works in a similar way with us undeserving sinners.  Because God is gracious, out of our gratitude we are inspired (not required) to live up to the ideals of God’s kingdom – peace, justice and love.  I believe God hopes his grace will inspire a “call to action” to work for God’s kingdom and answer God’s call.  It is the least we can do.



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