ReLENTless Pursuit of Grace

February 22, 2016

This past week I came across some unpleasant words and deeds done by some of my son's friends. My initial anger and surprise at their actions made me spend the next several days conjuring up ways in my mind that they should be punished. My husband and I had some honest conversations with our sons over the inappropriateness of his friends actions and ways to safeguard himself from falling into the same thought patterns and behaviors.

Afterward, I found that my anger towards these boys had not dissipated. I wanted to shake them and yell at them for the ignorance they had displayed. As I thought about this Lent and focusing on grace this week, I realized that was the last thing I wanted to extend towards these boys was grace. My outrage had turned to resentment and I didn't want to show them mercy or love.

But hanging onto resentment towards others is no way to live as a follower of Christ. All it took was for me to think back to my own teenage years and the errors I made during that time period to realize, that even though I do not approve of their behavior, they are still deserving of grace and kindness.

This week, let's focus on grace together.

Day 1: Grace for Those Around Us

Let's be honest, relationships are sometimes messy and many of these topics we're covering during Lent are hard to implement on a consistent basis. Grace is no different. I find myself asking the question: Who deserves grace? The answer is, none of us really. We don't deserve it, that's the whole point, God extends it to us, even though we've not earned it.

Luke 17:11 states: Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Jesus knew only one leper would return and yet he extends healing, mercy, and grace in spite of these men's actions. Did they deserve healing? No. Were they even thankful for it? Not that we're told. And yet, Jesus gives freely of his grace and healing because that's who he is. It's a lesson we can all remember the next time we want to hang onto the resentment and anger towards others for their actions.

Are you able to forgive others easily or do you find yourself hanging onto anger and resentment towards others? Who around you could use some grace today? Pray for God to give you wisdom in knowing what extending grace towards others should look like today.

Day 2: Grace for Ourselves

Romans 3:23 says: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

John 1:16-17 states: Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Another version says we have received grace upon grace. I love that phrase and the truth behind it. When I think of my own life and imperfections, I realize the value of God's grace, given freely to me. Realizing we do not have to be perfect to receive his gift frees us from feeling like we constantly have to perform for his approval. We do not. God loves us, just as we are, right where we are. If you are living under a shadow of guilt over past or current mistakes, today's the day to realize that God's grace is FOR YOU. 

Alexander Whyte explains that: “Grace, then, is grace,–that is to say, it is sovereign, it is free, it is sure, it is unconditional, and it is everlasting.”

Do you trust God's grace over every area of your life, every misstep and mistake? Do you understand, as Alexander says, that it is sure, unconditional, and everlasting? Is there anything in your life that hinders you from fully accepting God's grace for you? Today, be honest with God about your need for his grace.

Day 3: Grace for our Enemies

Grace for our enemies is not something we talk a lot about. Those we consider different from us and those who hate or despise us, whether that's the person next door or half way around the world. What's our response to a world that often shouts hateful things towards others? Oftentimes, I know my initial reaction is fear. But I realize that is not from God. So how do we extend grace to those who don't like or even hate us?

Luke 6:27-36 states: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Such truth in this passage of scripture. Is it easy to do? Not always. But I believe God will help us and change us as we pray for those we would consider our enemies. Not sure how to begin? Start by simply asking God to show his mercy and grace to your enemies and ask for your own heart to be changed as well. 

Do you have relationships in your life that are challenging? Do you struggle with disliking or even hating people that are of a different religious or racial background than your own? How do you think God would treat these same people and how can that be your guide in how you should treat others?

Lord Jesus, Extending grace towards others is hard and sometimes harder still to give to ourselves. Would you show us anew your amazing grace in our lives? Would you convict us where we need to be convicted, comfort us where we need comforting, and love us where we need to feel loved. And then would you help us to extend your grace to those around us in our words and our deeds? We love you Jesus, help us to be more like you. Amen.

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