Category Archives: Extending Grace

Extending Grace Part 3 – When I Need It Myself

[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.”

(Crosspoint is teaching an amazing series right now called Religion Lies. Click the link to check out the audio/video.)

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.
Psalm 32:5

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).

Dear Jesus,
Remind me each day how far the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:11-12)

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)
Amen

allisonsign

4 Comments

Filed under Extending Grace, Faith, God

Extending Grace Part 2 – When I Have Been Wronged

[For earlier posts in the Extending Grace series, see Intro and Part 1]

Black and white. Right versus wrong.
If only it were that easy. Truthfully, we are broken people living in a broken world.

I mentioned early in the series that I am a justice-oriented person. This is positive in some ways. Social justice is important; God instructs us to care for the “least of these” in society. Isaiah 1:17 says:

Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

The Bible mentions in Psalms that the Lord loves justice (Psalm 33:5). He is a just God. And I am made in his image.

The problem arises when my sense for justice turns into a belief that I deserve to live a nice, orderly life. I start putting my faith in order and justice instead of Jesus. I believe the things I have accumulated are mine. I get comfortable. I believe that I have a right to be treated fairly in all circumstances.

But we do live in a broken world. People hurt people. I hurt others. Others hurt me. When I am wronged by someone, I have a tendency to cry out like Job:

Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice. Job 19:7

When I am wronged, I start to look around for justice. Compassion deserts me as I cry, “foul!” I immediately forget all of the times that I hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally. I forget that broken people hurt others out of their own pain, as I have done so many times. I forget that I am only one step away from what my justice-oriented heart considers a “really big sin”.

Lately, I have pondered the relationship between Jesus and Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus for thirty silver coins. Judas wrongs Jesus in an obvious way. Yet, we don’t see Jesus crying, “foul” or “I have been wronged”. Judas’ action was probably not just an isolated slip-up. Most likely, there was a pattern of sinful behavior that emerged during the weeks and months leading up to Jesus’ death. Jesus knew the sin in the heart of Judas. He knew what Judas was doing and that he would ultimately betray him. Yet Jesus allowed him to stay among his closest followers. He let the situation play out. He didn’t intercede.

I have a lot of thoughts about this intriguing relationship. Obviously, I wasn’t there. We don’t know everything that occurred. (I also know that regardless of Judas’ decision, Jesus was going to that cross to save us.) But it just makes me think about how quickly I point out that I have been wronged instead of letting the situation play out. Instead of being patient and trying to figure out how I can minister to a broken person, I push the offender far away from me because my rights have been trampled.

How would my relationships change if I pulled those people close instead of pushing them away? If I chose mercy over justice? To use another quote from The Shack by William Paul Young:

“He chose the way of the cross where mercy triumphs over justice because of love. Would you instead prefer he’d chosen justice for everyone?”

Extending grace means understanding that my version of justice is warped and one-sided. If I impose justice, then I should be subjected to that same justice.

Who am I to demand justice when Jesus chose mercy?

allisonsign

1 Comment

Filed under Extending Grace, Faith, God

Commercial Break

So, in case you’re wondering whether I actually understand the definition of a blog SERIES, I do plan to provide some additional Extending Grace posts soon (ish).

BUT …

in the meantime …

Go read THIS POST by Jon over at Stuff Christians Like.

Because he explains grace so well that it makes me want to say:

Extending Grace Part 2 — What He Said

allisonsign

Leave a comment

Filed under Extending Grace, Faith, God

Extending Grace Part 1 – When I Am Falsely Accused

After a hectic day at work, I go outside to take my dog for a walk. Ambling around the neighborhood in our usual circle, an irritated voice pulls me out of my thoughts. Although the voice is not very loud at first, I have a sense that it’s meant for me. I locate the source—a lady yelling down at me from the third story of our neighboring condo building.

I slowly realize what is going on. She is reprimanding me and telling me to pick up after my dog if I’m going to walk on “their lawn”. Surprised and speechless, I simply hold up the bag full of doggie-poo that I had scooped up just moments before. She barely yells “thanks” before slamming the window and closing the drapes.

I immediately start to feel violated. I was too shocked to even defend myself. My mind races with all of the things I want to run and tell this lady. From “of course I clean up after my dog” to “I always follow the rules at our condo” to “how dare you yell from your window and accuse an innocent person of something like that?” I get all worked up in about 45 seconds flat.

It’s just a silly little neighborhood misunderstanding. But in my mind, I have the right to walk my dog without being falsely accused. I start condemning her attitude and her actions.

In instances such as this, I still act like the unmerciful servant that Jesus introduces in Matthew 18. You know the guy. He owes the king a crazy amount of money, an amount that he could not work off in a lifetime. He falls on his knees and begs the king for more time, for an opportunity to pay back what he owes. The king takes pity on him and cancels his debt entirely. The king shows mercy even though the servant doesn’t deserve it. And then the servant struts out of the palace and grabs the first guy he sees—one who owes him a small amount of money. This debtor also begs for mercy yet the servant has him thrown into prison.

I read this story and initially think the servant is such an idiot. The guy’s debt was just cancelled by a merciful king and he immediately turns around and sends a fellow servant to jail for a tiny amount of money. How could he be so hard-hearted? And then I realize the truth. I am that idiot.

I am the one who has been forgiven much, but I still turn around and condemn others. I think that I have a right to be treated fairly. I don’t deserve to be falsely accused. But . . .

Jesus wasn’t treated fairly.

He was falsely accused.

He willingly sacrificed his life to pay my debt.

And he whispers in my ear, “Show her grace because I have shown you grace”.

allisonsign

4 Comments

Filed under Extending Grace, Faith, God