Grace is one of my wife’s favorite words. She likes it so much, she even named one of our dogs “Grace.” We have great memories of grace.
- Came home late one night, Grace was gated
- Typically, the dogs greet us when we get home
- Not this time. We realized we didn’t put the gate up preventing the dogs from going upstairs
- They found out that Grace had eaten the cheese crackers that were stashed in his son’s room. She had the bag on her head and couldn’t get it off!
- She knocked the door shut and was trying to find her way out
- Found the dog in the back of the closet, on top of a box, in the corner, with a bag on her head
- Funny! How could you be made about that.
- Grace, the dog, was a good teacher about grace over the years.
Grace is one of those “tough concepts” of the Christian life. Forgiveness as well.
Philip Yancey gives us this idea of grace by contrasting it with justice and mercy:
When you get what you deserve
When you don’t get what you deserve
When you get what you don’t deserve
Illustration: Mailing money
- Every week, a young man named Kevin mails a dollar.
- Kevin was sued for over $1 million, but settled for $936 mailed one dollar at a time.
- At 17, Kevin killed an 18 year-old girl in a drunk driving accident.
- Kevin mails a $1 check every Friday.
- Has gone to jail for missing the payment.
- It’s not about the money. The family wants justice.
- This haunts Kevin.
- Do you think this family has a right to be angry? Do you think it’s right that the guilty are punished?
- But is 936 payments enough? When the family gets their final payment, will it have been enough?
- How much is enough? How many payments would/do you require?
None of us make it through life without getting hurt. Someone somewhere has hurt you. At sometime you have been a victim. So we almost decide, “How many payments will I demand?”
It may not be a check. But there are other ways: Silence, distance, carefully chosen words, messing up moments, etc.
“Justice is served… until I’m reminded about it and then I demand it again.”
“Hurt becomes hate, and hate becomes rage as we become junkies unable to make it through the day without mainlining on bitterness.”
In the book of Matthew, Peter asked Jesus this type of question:
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.
Peter is worried about Jesus being over-forgiving.
If you measure your grace then you’re not about being gracious. Jesus points out that you’re always to be about grace.
We’re not all that different than the servant who owed an un-payable debt.
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
God’s grace isn’t little, our faith tends to be. We don’t realize how much we’ve been forgiven!
The servant must have felt like he was still in debt. Why else would he act that way? Why would he squeeze the other man to pay the money? The servant
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled
When we miss the grace of God, the potential for bitterness is great.
Where we catch God’s grace, the potential for forgiveness is great.
2 Timothy 2:1
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus
Paul could have told Timothy many other things, yet he focused on being strong in the grace that is Jesus.
Do not miss the grace of God.
The further we step into the pool of grace, the more likely we are to give grace. This is important for us to understand. Could that actually help us with some of our anger management? Could that be the secret that would free us to be enslaved to un-forgiveness?
The key to forgiveness is to focus on what God did for you. Quit focusing on what they did to you and focus on what God did for you.
“Someone must pay” may still be on your mind, preventing you to forgive. Well, someone did pay. Jesus.
Un-forgiveness always leaves us in prison. Prisons of anger, guilt, and depression. God doesn’t throw us in jail, we throw ourselves in.
One dies in his full vigor,
being wholly at ease and secure,
24 his pails full of milk
and the marrow of his bones moist.
25 Another dies in bitterness of soul,
never having tasted of prosperity.
Illustration: “The Liar’s Club”
- A man in Texas stayed married to his wife but didn’t speak to her for 40+ years because of a dispute over sugar
- One day he cut the house in half
- The husband and wife lived out the rest of their days in half houses in either end of the property
- That is what hatred does. Isolates and imprisons.
The truth of the Bible tells us that you will never be called upon to give anyone more grace than God has given you.
Forgiveness is an act of faith. Forgiveness means you’re trusting that God is better at justice than you are. You leave the scales of Mercy and Justice in God’s hands.
Forgiveness is hard, not fair, and unnatural.
“Lord, if you can’t make me thin, then make my friends look fat.”
Forgiveness is holy stuff. It is made up of heaven. It terrifies us but at the same time it gives us hope. It is the way to grace.
Grace is the story of the Bible. It’s the story of Christmas, it’s the story of Easter.
Today is Mother’s Day. Truth is, some family gatherings bring pain and hurt. Things left unforgiven. The prayer today is that God’s power of grace may come through us.
God forgave us.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.