A few weeks ago I was running late for a meeting. Even though it was an important meeting I wasn’t worried about my tardiness because I knew why it had happened. It was my intention to get there on time and I even left the house with more than enough margin to make it but an accident on the freeway and a few other unexpected obstacles later, and now the folks I was scheduled to meet where waiting on me. I wasn’t worried though because I had a reason. There was nothing that I could do about it and those whose time I was now wasting where just going to have to give me the benefit of the doubt. They were going to have to extend grace. I needed it and I expected it! And, thankfully, they gave it. The next day I was scheduled to have a meeting with someone else but this time in my office. They were about ten minutes late getting there. I would like to tell you that I extended to them the same grace that was extended to me, but that would not be true! They gave me a good and even reasonable explanation for this grievous sin committed against me, but I still took it very personally. I kept telling myself that if they had any respect for me at all they would have been on time. I expected grace but was unwilling, in that moment, to extend it to another.
Unfortunately, this was not a one time event in my life. In my relationships I often expect others to understand everything that I am dealing with and offer grace for my shortcomings. I am also the first one to point out their failures. I have reasons for every mistake that I make which makes me feel better justifying those mistakes. I am also intolerant of the weaknesses and shortcomings of those whom I say I love. I wait for unconditional love while taking even that smallest perceived slight very seriously.
Can anyone else relate to this or am I the only one? I feel bad just reading the above paragraph! I don’t think I am the only one though. I believe that a desire to receive grace is a desire that we all have while the need to EXTEND grace is a struggle.
For the sake of perspective I offer the following verses from the Bible:
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
I love these verses as should you. What these verses help us to understand is that God’s gift of salvation to us is a gift that we do not deserve but one that he freely offers! This is the cornerstone of the gospel message. Christ did what we could not do and then offered forgiveness to those who deserved it least: us! Where would we be without the Grace of God?!
I have known quite a few Christians that love Grace and stop reading right there. I have often been one of those Christians. The problem is this: if we stop reading there we come to the conclusion that Grace really is about us. We say it is all about Him, but we make it about us which is why the next verse is so important:
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The point being made here is that we do not receive the gift of Grace for ourselves; we receive the gift of Grace so that we can do good works for the benefit of others! We should walk (that is live) in the Grace and with the Grace and offering the Grace that was given to us! Another verse that helps me understand this is later in the book of Ephesians:
Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Focus on the last part of the verse. Why are we kind and forgiving? Because Christ has been kind and forgiving to us. In all things we are to follow His example.
So what does this mean for us practically? A few thoughts:
- Extend the benefit of the doubt to others as you would hope it would be extended to you.
- In the same vein, stop taking things so personally. Not everything is about you and the perceived shortcomings or failures of others are not aimed at you.
- Ask why (and seek to understand) before offering judgment. If you stop long enough to understand, and extend grace, you may find an area that you can help someone else.
- Reflect on just how incredible the Grace of God is toward us and how undeserving of that grace we really are. That, above everything else, helps to keep this in perspective for me.
Grace really is a wonderful gift that I am thankful for whether it be from an eternal God or a friend willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. It becomes amazing when it motivates me to extend that grace to others in need.
Grace should be given not just received! What an opportunity we have to be like Christ when we begin to understand this simple truth.