To fully understand relational grace in marriage, we first need to understand God’s grace in His relationship with us. Most of the time, grace refers to blessings, favor or gifts freely given by God to humanity. In John chapter 1, grace is seen in the embodiment of Jesus. Jesus’ grace are found in two kinds of gifts—the gift of salvation and the gift of creation. Creative grace is seen in John 1:10 which states that “the world was made through him”—a gift through the act of creation that was not merited. Then, right afterwards, vs. 13 declares a different type of grace, the saving grace, in describing those who are “born of God.” First He created us, then He saved us.
God’s saving grace is the central theology of the Christian life. God’s grace is the foundation from which another grace can be constructed. The unmerited gift of grace carries a response. Our response as Christians is gratitude and serving Christ throughout our lives. Recall again Karl Barth’s understanding of Trinity and the dance of perichoresis among the three persons of the Godhead. The Trinity relationship shows us many qualities that the trinity shares as gifts to each other. These include unity, individuality, equality, love, collaboration, and creativity. There is a constant giving as the Trinity acts in an individual, equal, collaborative, creative manner —that is the Father, Son, and Holy spirit are constantly giving to each other. These are the gifts of grace; such gifts are given in a way that does not relinquish the individuality, equality, love, collaboration or creativity, but rather enhances them.
God not only loves within the Trinity in a perfect dance, He then goes a step farther, his love grows to where it no longer is internal—within the Trinity—but becomes external in God loving humans and creation. This love of creation has its ultimate conclusion at the cross as described by Paul in Romans 5:8 (NIV), “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This type of self-denying love is the example that Jesus instructed his followers to imitate. Christ-followers are to love others as Jesus has loved them. I John 4:19 reads: “We love because he first loved us.” (NIV). We are to love in the way that God loves God and in the way that God loves us. This becomes the grand image of marriage—the bride and groom are to love each other like the Trinity loves, and like Christ loved the Church.