Over the past few months I have been writing a series of blogs that I’ve called the “Journey to Understand Grace“. I have written about the irony of grace, the gift of grace, the insanity of grace (my favorite of all the blogs in this series I think), being thankful for grace, the faithfulness of grace, how grace is life-changing, and the patience of grace. It’s definitely been a cool journey that I’ve been on as I seek to learn more about grace, and God continues to reveal more truths to me about the depth of his grace.
So far however, I have been focusing on all things about grace that are good and that we love. That was on purpose, as grace is mostly good and there is a lot about grace to love, that is definitely for sure. Notice I said in the previous sentence “grace is mostly good…” Mostly good. That means there is another side of grace besides what is good, no matter how small or minute that other side might be. And it is that other side that I want to explore in this blog.
Ready? Me neither, but here we go…
Grace is AMAZING! It is amazing because we do not deserve God’s grace at all…but that is the very idea of grace. Grace is a gift that is undeserved; we do not deserve God’s love, mercy, kindness, salvation, etc. Yet we have been offered all of those things because of the amazing grace of God.
It’s that same grace he offers us that we are commanded to show to others. There are several passages of scripture where we are commanded to love others as God loved us, forgive others as God forgives us, show mercy to others as God shows mercy to us, and so on. God calls his followers to be gracious to others in the same way he is gracious to us.
Let’s just admit right now that is easier said than done.
It’s not easy to do for two reasons:
1 – We are not God and thus not perfect. He definitely has an advantage in this regard. Because he is God, and in 1 John we are told that God is love, he is able to love us when we don’t deserve it better than we are able to love others when we don’t think they deserve it. He is able to since it is part of who he is. We are sinners, so loving others (and being gracious in any form) is not as natural to us.
2 – We don’t like pain, and we think it will be very painful to show grace to someone who has hurt us. As humans it is easy to begin to label others in our life as “deserving” or “undeserving” of our grace based on how they have treated us or how they have hurt us. When we do this, we begin to decide who deserves grace from us and who doesn’t, all based upon our emotion from past experiences. We don’t want to get hurt again, so we don’t show grace anymore.
The first one I can’t say much about…it is true that God has the advantage there. However, he does still call us to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16); he still commands us to love others as God loves us (John 15:12); he wants us to forgive others as he has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13); I could go on, but the point is made. We know these truths and verses, it’s just a matter of if we are willing to obey them or not.
The second one can be easy to get hung up on though, and we can even begin to think that God doesn’t really get the pain we feel when we have been hurt and don’t want to show grace. Or we’ve been hurt and chosen to show grace, only to have it ignored or trampled on by the one we are showing that grace to. So we hide behind the pain and decide we are going to protect and look out for our self, not allowing ourselves to be hurt again. We close ourselves off because of the pain, and even think that God doesn’t really understand the pain we feel, somehow justifying our actions in the process.
But God does know the pain that can come from/with grace all too well….
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:33-34)
God sent his son to die for our sins…showing us more grace than we can ever fully comprehend. But as Jesus hung on the cross in pain and agony, God had to turn his back on his son when we placed our sin on him. Jesus felt the pain of abandonment and loneliness; God felt the pain of losing a connection with a loved one.
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country…” (Luke 15:11-13)
This is the beginning of the parable of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-32. There are a couple important things to note here. First, the younger son told his father he wanted his inheritance now. An inheritance was generally received after the father passed on…or when the father decided it was the right time to give the inheritance…especially by the younger son, so for the son to say this was like saying “dad, you are dead to me and I don’t care about you anymore, so just give me what you owe me now.” Second, the father, probably knowing full well his son would leave once he had what he wanted from the father, went ahead and gave the inheritance to his son anyway.
The father showed grace despite being hurt; he responded to a painful situation in a gracious way; he showed love to his son despite his son’s disrespect and selfishness.
The story of the Prodigal Son is a picture of God and us. Jesus was giving his listeners a mental picture of just how much God is willing to be gracious to us. Despite how much it will hurt him, and despite how much pain we might cause him with our actions, he shows us grace anyway.
That is the pain of grace. It’s knowing you have been hurt and probably will be hurt again. It’s understanding that those you show grace to will potentially walk away from you and reject your grace. It’s feeling the pain of abandonment, loneliness, or a severed connection with a loved one. It’s painful, that is for sure. But that, to a degree, is what makes grace grace.
Pain causes us to not want to show grace to the one who caused the pain, or we are afraid of the pain we might feel when we choose to show grace. Grace can only be grace when we show it despite the pain. That is the pain of grace. After all, grace is an undeserved gift.
God knows that pain all too well, and he still calls us to show grace despite the pain.
What we must remember though, is that the pain might last for a moment (sometimes a few moments), but grace lasts much longer. It will hurt in the moment, but the love and mercy and kindness and everything else that comes from grace lasts long after the pain begins to subside.
Don’t be afraid of the pain of grace. May we be thankful God was willing to show grace despite the pain it would cause him, and may we choose to obey his commands to show grace to others despite the pain we might feel.