by Julie Farren
Grace is the greatest gift we can ever receive. It is unearned, undeserved. Because of God’s pure unconditional love for us, we receive so much blessing, both temporal and eternal. As I ponder the grace of God to me, I am overwhelmed by a love so dear, personal and intimate, but also all encompassing, absolute and complete. It is the macro and the micro of His love entwined together. He who is Creator of all that is good, is also Accepter of the flawed individual. The Perfect and Holy Creator of the universe bends low and bestows His favor on us who are undeserving. My question is this: are we exhibiting the same grace to others that we enjoy?
I make mistakes. Many mistakes. Sometimes, I make the same mistakes over and over, seemingly never getting past them. I hang my head in shame as I confess them to the Lord, apologizing once again for coming up short. In that moment, I need to be reminded that His love is agape, unconditional. His grace, sufficient. I am invited to come boldly before Him; to embrace that truth which enlivens the joy within me and dissolves the shame. I may be insignificant, flawed and slow to learn, but I am deeply loved, cherished and always invited to come into His presence. This identity in Christ never changes. It isn’t based on what I do or my ability to please, but emanates from His character. He IS love. And His love is agape. In Christ, we are accepted as we are. What joy! I fall on my knees in gratitude over this knowledge. It never gets tiresome, never grows old; it forever sustains and strengthens. So I accept His grace with gratitude.
But do I also offer, with outstretched hands, that same grace? Giving that unearned acceptance to those in my reach, in my circle of influence? Am I keeping a list, perhaps mentally, of wrongs suffered and hurts inflicted? Am I holding on to them, allowing bitterness to take root in my heart? Or am I quick to forgive? I’m not saying it’s easy, far from it. But we can make progress. Scripture transforms our thinking and through our thinking, our actions and attitudes. We are meant to reflect the love of Christ.
Consider Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” When my kids used to spill their milk all over the table, so much so that it poured off the sides of the table in streams soaking into the carpet and pooling on the seat of the chair, I had a choice in that moment how I would react. But if I paused for second I could recall my own clumsy hands and the many times I had made messes in my hurriedness. Or when I had broken things because I did not take care to be more careful with my surroundings. This enabled me to extend grace and reassure them that it was okay. It was no big deal and easily cleaned up, made right again. But there were times I remember, times when frustration overwhelmed me. When they did something that evoked anger in me, I could lash out in that anger, an anger which surprised even me, bitterly griping and complaining about the extra work that I didn’t have time for. Those are times I regret. Now that my children are grown up and moved on to their own families, I cannot go back and correct my lack of grace.
There are times in our lives when a friend will speak unkind words that wounds our hearts. We may feel unfairly judged, not given the benefit of the doubt. The temptation to close up our heart, so as not to be hurt again may be too hard to resist. We may be tempted to decide she doesn’t deserve forgiveness. But isn’t this just the place where grace shines the brightest? When it is so completely undeserved that it is a blessing and a balm that binds two together again. Whether it is within your family or amongst your friends, when we choose to give back grace for hurts or trade kindness for anger, we reflect God’s loving heart.
The prodigal son did not deserve mercy, yet his father ran to him. Picked up his robe and RAN! He showed undignified mercy and grace: a love that exceeds what is right and acceptable in man’s eyes. God’s love is not like that of the world. It is forgiving, kind, patient, and an endless source of acceptance. And that is God’s love to us. It never exhausts itself, never runs dry. Always there is more and more grace.
Let’s be clear: we’re not talking salvation here, we’re talking sanctification, that process by which we become more and more like Jesus Himself. Here’s why: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us,” Titus 3:5a. In other words we are saved by grace alone. God’s work, though, is not finished in us by His redemptive act on the cross. We are being renewed and transformed day by day: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2. Your salvation is not based on your obedience, but your rewards may be. Sanctification is a day by day work of God in our lives, a yielding to His Holy Spirit to obey. And part of that Holy Spirit’s work in us is to teach us to give grace when it is needed, even when it is difficult and may seem impossible to give. But He will strengten us to do so. It will bring us good and will bring Him glory.
Yes, “grace” has got to be the most beautiful word in the human language.
We will bury my Aunt this week. She lived 95 long years on this earth. That is a long time in human terms, but merely a moment in God’s. Each one of us will come to the end of our days on earth. Life is too short to waste on harsh words, demanding one’s own way, keeping lists that should be stamped “paid in full”. If God can hold us in high esteem who fail to keep his laws, how can we hold one iota against anyone else? Give and it will be given to you. What measure will we choose? Give grace every chance you get – you won’t regret it! How will I be remembered? How will you be remembered? Choose well. Give grace.