[For earlier posts in the Extending Grace series, see Intro, Part 1, and Part 2]
In his sermon a couple of weeks ago, Pete Wilson said, “everybody wants to talk about justice until they’ve done something wrong and when they’ve done something wrong . . . then they want to talk about grace.”
I think that Pete’s statements above (and his current sermon series) are right on target. It goes along with what I’ve been talking about in this Extending Grace series. I struggle with trying to impose justice on others while I am the benefactor of boatloads of grace from God for all of the sin in my life.
However, I think there is another component to this. I strongly believe there is a subset of us that grew up in legalist environments, in guilt-ridden households, in condemning churches that makes it really hard for us to show grace to ourselves. I am talking about those of us who struggle to believe the nature of Jesus is restoration and not condemnation.
My justice-oriented heart is not subjective. When I mess up, fall short, hurt someone (and so on), I don’t use the “grace card” for myself. I start condemning myself; the dialogue in my head haunts me:
telling me I am worthless,
telling me I don’t deserve mercy,
telling me that I can never share Jesus with others when I cannot get it right myself,
telling me that this sin is too big for God’s forgiveness,
or that I have already used up my share of grace.
I know that Jesus forgives. I know that his sacrifice was (and is) perfect. But I sometimes struggle to release myself from the debt of my sin. I hold onto the guilt. I keep myself from fully receiving and understanding God’s grace.
A wise woman in my Bible Study pointed out this verse in Psalms last week:
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD “—
and you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
God forgives our sins—and he also forgives the guilt of our sins. I think this is so important to understand, especially for someone like me who struggles with guilt and condemnation.
Because fully comprehending and accepting the immeasurable amount of grace I receive from Christ will hopefully get me one step closer to extending grace to others (instead of demanding justice).
Forgive my sins and also forgive the guilt of my sins. (Psalm 32:5)
Help me understand that I’m the indebted servant who was forgiven by the merciful king. But let me rewrite the ending and extend that same grace and mercy to those I encounter each day. (Matthew 18)