No matter how pure our motives and how flawless our discernment process, we depend on God’s grace ultimately to help us make not only good choices, but the best ones.
We count on God’s grace as we examine our hearts. We need grace to help us detach from biases and the sorts of passions—both negative and positive—that can sometimes cloud our judgment.
We count on God’s grace as we seek out information. It’s not always easy to get to the truth of a matter—sometimes it depends on who is supplying the information. Three different people may have three different sets of recommendations as to a job or a major purchase or the best way to deal with a defiant teenager. Sometimes we seek out—perhaps subconsciously—those who generally agree with us and who are less likely to challenge our thinking or our facts.
We count on God’s grace as we listen to the wisdom of Scripture, the Church, and our conscience. Scripture can be misused, misquoted, and misinterpreted in so many ways! I can probably find a specific verse in the Bible to back up anything I want to do. This is why the Scriptures themselves encourage us to study God’s word and meditate on it so that it seeps down into us not just intellectually but in ways that the Holy Spirit can use to transform us. In the same way, we know that the Church has made various bad judgments through its history. God does not magically make the Church omniscient—as the body of Christ, we move forward in community by grace and with constant learning and discernment.
And the human conscience is shaped by situation and conditioning—which is why it took centuries for well-meaning Christians to understand that slavery is wrong and that women and children are full human souls and not the property of men.
My conscience has limits, and so does yours. We make our best judgments, but we pray that God’s grace will continue working in us so that the conscience is shaped, not only by family and culture, but by Divine Love itself.
Just as grace can help us discern, grace can help us when we don’t discern well. Grace is God’s love showing up no matter how things go. Grace helps us grow beyond the mistakes and beyond the situations we cannot control.