There are two responses that a person could have to being shown grace. One, they despise the act simply because they take it as an indictment of their own behavior. It deepens their anger and animosity. They view the kindness of another as salt in their wounds and a gift that seems more like an assault. It’s as if grace becomes some derogatory element. The second response is an equally intense emotion, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. Some will be totally raptured by the unprecedented tenderness and compassion of another. They won’t spite the love of another, rather, they will embrace it. Grace will break the hold of anger and unforgiveness that is wrecking the relationship. Obviously this takes a high level of humility, while the first reaction is distorted by pride.
I’ve seen both of these responses in my own experiences. What prompted me to write on this topic was my efforts in sharing about the Gospel with non-believers. Most of the people I share with are friends, students, and some who I have had the pleasure of having dialogue with through this blog. Everyone I have ever spoken with have had one of these two responses to the Gospel message. When the end comes, all of those who have rejected the message of Jesus will have done so because they reject grace. You know the common excuse: “I’m a good person and I think in the end, God will acknowledge that above all my bad deeds.” This person feels they have no need for grace, and they take the gospel as an accusation that they are a bad person, instead of the greatest proposition of love and acceptance.
I’ve been going through a study of the book of Revelation with my Father-in-law and a common theme that arises is the unashamed relentless refusal of human kind to repent before a patient God. It’s all because they reject grace. Pride will never allow a person to see their need for the unwarranted love of another. Pride dismisses love as a need and places it in the “I’m owed” category. If that person is shown love it’s only because they deserve it and in no way will it ever change their character. This person would look at the cross and think that it was a waste of time and life because they didn’t need it. Unfortunately, most of mankind will display this pattern of thinking.
To accept the gospel means to accept our need. To accept that we are broken, and guilty, and hurting, and searching, in need of being found. That takes a lot of humility. A LOT of humility. And so many are unwilling to go there. I don’t want to be unwilling. I don’t want anyone reading this to be unwilling.
If we can openly fall on the grace of Jesus, then we should also be open to the grace of our fellow brothers and sisters. But I know Christians who erect walls with others. I know Christians who are spiteful and harsh. I know Christians who refuse to let go and forgive. But this should never be so. This is not the mark of someone who has been touched by grace. To be touched by God’s grace is to be transformed by it. Those who embrace the grace of God should also embrace the grace of another. They should also lovingly extend that grace to another without hesitation for we have broken God’s heart far more than anyone could ever break ours.
Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Luke 7:47 (NIV)
The problem is, people don’t think they have much to be forgiven for, so their love comes up wanting. The woman who threw herself at the feet of Jesus and washed his feet with her tears, knew her great need and knew God’s grace. Her love showed it. And so should ours.
We’ve all probably known people who can be so humble before their Savior, raise their hands in praise, weep before Jesus, and yet be so harsh among their brothers and sisters. It’s not new to the 21st century either. Jesus addressed it in His own ministry. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a parable about a servant who had been forgiven an incredible debt (as we all have who are covered by Jesus’ sacrifice). Once forgiven, that servant showed no mercy to the one who owed him a debt. Jesus referred to that person in the story as the “wicked servant” because of his refusal to show mercy, as he had been shown mercy.
We have to face up the fact that we are without excuse. Even the kindest of us are still guilty of harboring resentment, getting frustrated, not being sincere, clinging to things that have happened to us, holding a grudge, or outright refusing to forgive someone. If we could keep things a little more in perspective we’d realize that we are hardening our hearts in so many ways. We have to release ourselves from the bondage of anger, offense, and unforgiveness. We need to release others from our expectations. We need to see others how Jesus does, with a heart full of love and grace. Our relationships need it. Our health needs it. And the world needs to see that grace on display. We need to remember that we have been forgiven far more than we will ever be asked to forgive others.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)