U2’s “Grace” & the Dynamics of Resurrection

U2’s “Grace” is a lovely meditation on the transformational dynamics of resurrection.  It’s the final song on the album All That You Can’t Leave Behind and forms an inclusio with the opening track, “Beautiful Day.”  “Grace” gathers, restates, and explains the call in “Beautiful Day” to inhabit joyfully God’s broken but still beautiful creation.

My kids don’t like “Grace” because it’s quiet, slow, and takes so long to develop.  Perhaps they’ll appreciate it down the road.  The pace and simplicity of the tune is essential to the song’s profundity.

The first stanza introduces the logic of grace.  Grace does not simply look on the bright side or ignore trouble, ugliness, or pain.

Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace faces reality and is unafraid of the truth.  Grace encounters and absorbs tragedy.

Grace, it’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace changes the world because it has a different way of seeing.  Grace, personified here as a woman, isn’t apart from the world.  She walks the streets, encountering the gritty realities of the world as it is.  But she sees differently, finding goodness in everything.

Think of the people you know who are like this, people whose presence is accompanied by music.

This is far from a romantic vision of life.  You can’t respond to the call in “Beautiful Day” if you simply deny harsh realities and try to be positive.  That’s not grace.

Grace, she’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace goes to work.  She rolls up her sleeves and takes on trouble and difficulty.  Grace is a completely different dynamic than karma.  We might even say grace is holy—it’s “other,” “set apart,” a totally different reality than anyone could come up with from within our perverted human experience.

And when she goes to work, you can hear the music.

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips

Grace is not a super-model, nor one who indulges in luxury or frivolity.  She’s a mother hard at work, caring for her child and carrying a world on her hips.

The final lines reveal grace’s transformational dynamic. 

She carries a pearl in perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Just as a priceless pearl is formed by the introduction of a painful irritant, grace is at work to absorb hurt and transform tragedy into something beautiful.

I love these concluding lines.  Grace is fearless in the face of pain, confident in the transformational dynamics of resurrection. 

“Grace” is a beautiful meditation on God’s goodness to us, and it might also serve as a manifesto for the church.  God’s people embody his grace by God’s Spirit, turning death into life, darkness into light, and transforming dead-ends into redemptive and life-giving pathways. 

We don’t draw upon God’s transforming power when we protect ourselves from pain, when we wall ourselves off from this world and its brokenness.  God’s grace goes to work when we suffer along with creation, embodying cruciform postures and patterns of life, confident in God’s resurrection power to transform ugliness into beauty.

The resurrection dynamics of grace are the work of the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and who animates the church with his life-giving presence.

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3 responses to “U2’s “Grace” & the Dynamics of Resurrection

  • joey

    Yes, “Grace” is another of my favorites, too. Good thoughts, Tim. I do think it’s important to emphasize that “grace” is not something that exists independent of God. “”Grace” is GOD acting graciously. (Likewise, God’s “wrath” is not something that exists and acts independent of him; to which he is beholden. God’s wrath is God acting in (holy) anger.) I think there has been a tendency to speak as though grace (and wrath) is something separate from God.
    When ya gonna talk about “When I Look at the World” or “Peace on Earth” or “Until the End of the World” or….?

  • athanasius96

    A beautiful song and a great exposition. Keep working on the kids. Someday they’ll appreciate the depth of the music and the band behind it.

  • Tim Gombis and U2 Songs | Euangelion

    [...] theologically on a U2 song. Recently he wrote a post on one my my favs “Grace” titled “Grace and the Dynamics of Resurrection”. If you’re a U2 fan like myself, you’ll enjoy Tim’s [...]

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