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Grace (noun): the free and unmerited favor of God.
I have been stuck on the word “grace” and the deep, weighty meaning and implication it holds for the last few days. Despite being full of sin, I have been saved by God’s lavish, unwarranted and abundant grace, and I continue to be, moment after moment. It was when I was farthest from God that He openly and graciously welcomed me. That He reached out to me and offered me so much more than I ever deserved. I was far from blameless, far from perfect, and far from worthy, yet His love, grace and mercy were poured out on me through the sending of His son Jesus to die for me (and you) as a gift – all when I was at my very worst!
Romans 5:8 “but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”
How humbling. How convicting. But how encouraging.
I think the part that has been stirring my thoughts and emotions and convicting me the most is how infrequently I show that same level of grace to people around me. How I hold grudges, can be quick-tempered, and may “forgive” those who’ve done me wrong but don’t truly extend them grace. Ouch. As I evaluated my thoughts and actions deeper and considered where they grew from, I found that it all was rooted in pride, and not the noble kind of pride. What do I gain from this sense of pride? Is it satisfaction? Pleasure? Comfort? No, no, and no. The answer? Nothing but sour, festering bitterness – within myself and with others. Recently, I was reminded at church that everything I do is to glorify God, even down to how I treat and talk to others. Pride and bitterness don’t glorify God. Identifying that my life was starting to be sprinkled with both, I was prompted to start making a change.
From my childhood and growing up, I don’t remember ever really hearing the gospel preached as much as I have over the last two years where I go to church now. Admittedly, I remember thinking the first few months, “why do they keep reiterating the gospel Sunday after Sunday? We get it, we know Jesus died for our sins so that we could be right with God”…clearly I didn’t truly get it though, right?? The gospel can’t be reiterated ENOUGH, and these days I’ve been reminding myself almost daily. And this regular reminding of the gospel – I mean really slowing down, sitting and reflecting on what happened and everything Christ willingly went through for ME at my WORST – has urged me to reevaluate how I treat and interact with those around me…especially the ones who bump into my happy, who rub me the wrong way, who I don’t see eye to eye with, or who have done something to “wrong me”…
…because in the end, when I’m really being honest with myself and actually consider that the world ISN’T about me, I see all of the above annoyances and offenses in a new light. What do I mean? I mean that any transgression that someone has committed against me – whether real or crafted by my imagination – is like a tiny drop of water compared to the vast ocean of sin and transgression I’ve committed against God. It’s when I believe that someone doesn’t deserve my forgiveness that I’m quickly reminded that I most certainly did nothing to deserve God’s forgiveness, patience, or grace…
And yet He still has more than enough grace for me, day in and day out.
Grace goes far beyond forgiveness, though. I’ve been reminded that grace is also about patience and understanding in those same circumstances. We are all very different people, coming from very different backgrounds, cultures, upbringings, experiences, and viewpoints. Rather than automatically defaulting to hostility, bitterness, resentment, enmity, arrogance, anger, ridicule, unforgiveness or shame to those who have “wronged” me or aren’t like me, I try to ask myself “is how I’m about to interact with this person going to glorify God and point them to God?”. If not, then I attempt to not act or speak, but rather choose to examine my heart and motives. How thankful I am that we have the presence of the Holy Spirit to work inside of us, urging us to move more towards love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Colossians 3:13 “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive”
I guess what I’m saying is, it wasn’t until I slowed down and started to cultivate a deeper understanding of God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness towards me, that I was spurred to reevaluate how I’ve been treating, talking, and interacting with others. This development of a deeper and more personal appreciation of what Christ did on the cross has changed – and is continuing to change – how I look at and treat those around me. True understanding of God’s grace is the catalyst to heart change.
Practical Ways to Extend Grace: A list for myself
- Watch what you say to others. Is it positive? Life-giving? Loving? Kind? Ephesians 4:29 says it best: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear”. I this goes for more than just the obvious “don’t yell at others” and using rude language. But also being aware of tone, and body language, and sarcasm (shoutout to yourself on that one, Clara).
- Forgive. Ephesians 4 coming in clutch again, verse 32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
- Give people room to make mistakes. I like how Colossians 3:13 words it, “bear with each other”. No one is perfect. We make mistakes.
- Don’t keep score. Just because you offered grace and forgiveness to someone doesn’t mean they owe you back.
- Likewise, don’t keep a list of wrongs they’ve done.
- Swallow your pride and admit when you’re wrong. Can we all agree this one may be one of the hardest ones? But arguably one of the most freeing. I get such a gross, icky mental image when I think of pride. Proverbs is full of wisdom in regards to the end result of pride. Proverbs 11:2 says “when pride comes, then comes disgrace”. And Proverbs 29:23, “pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor”. Yikes.
- Remind yourself of the gospel, daily. I find myself most full of pride, bitterness and unforgiveness on the days I haven’t reminded myself of what God has done for me. We’ve done nothing to deserve God’s grace, we ALL fall short of the glory of God, yet we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23-24)! I think when we really understand the gravity of God’s grace for us, we can’t help but to extend that same grace to others from the overflow of our thankfulness and praise.