Grace is an undeserved gift. God’s love, mercy, salvation, peace, kindness, etc. are all part of his grace toward us, because we do not deserve any of it. The fact that we have the ability to pray to God and have a relationship with him is his grace, since we are so inferior compared to him.
It is also grace when we offer love, mercy, kindness, etc. to someone else when they’ve hurt or wronged us. When we choose to forgive an offense and instead treat/respond to another in a way they don’t necessarily deserve (because they hurt or wronged us), we are showing grace to that person. And vice versa when someone we have wronged offers us love, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness.
Question I often ask myself as I consider grace is “what does grace look like?” It’s often easy to begin to understand the theological and academic definition of grace. We can look at a dictionary, look at verses in the Bible that talk about grace, and read what others say about grace to get a working definition of grace in our head. That’s what I’ve been doing a lot, and it’s not wrong. It has helped me get a deeper understanding of grace, as well as begin to realize just how amazing grace is.
However, at some point we have to put some feet to what we know so it can be applied in how we live. Otherwise it just stays in our head, and that doesn’t lead to acting upon that knowledge we have. Knowledge, without any application that would lead to action, is incomplete and has no real impact on our life. We gain knowledge in order to learn and grow, not just fill our head with more knowledge.
So let’s talk about what grace would look like when acted out…
In the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), which I mentioned in the post ‘The Pain of Grace‘, you see the son essentially telling his father “you’re dead to me, I don’t really care about you being in my life anymore, so give me my money”.
The son was very hurtful to his father, and yet we see the father give the son what he wanted. Then later when the son returns after living wildly and blowing all of the money his father gave him, we see the father waiting for his son to return…and when he sees him coming home, he runs out to him and loves him the same as he had before his son left. The son didn’t deserve to receive the money that way, and the son didn’t necessarily deserve to be loved the same when he returned after all he had done. But the father forgave him (even before the son repented) and showed him unconditional love. That is the look of grace.
In Exodus 32 we see that Israel has created an idol of a calf made of gold, and has begun to worship that idol. God is quite angry with Israel, and tells Moses that he is going to wipe out the entire nation of Israel and start over with Moses’ descendants (verses 9-10). Moses then prays to God and intercedes on behalf of Israel, begging God to spare Israel (verses 11-13). God listens to Moses’ prayer and relents from destroying Israel.
Moses prayed for those who had sinned; he asked God to not punish Israel severely for what they had done wrong. Moses didn’t have to do this. Israel had done a very evil thing by creating this idol and worshiping it…especially considering the fact that God had just performed several amazing miracles when he rescued them from Egypt. Yet despite that, Moses prayed on behalf of Israel. That is the look of grace.
Joseph’s brothers wanted to kill him and ended up selling him into slavery. Years later, when his brothers showed up wanting food, Joseph could have repaid them for all they had done to him. Yet he ultimately showed them mercy, despite all they had done to him and all he had been through in his life because of what they had done to them. He even told them that what they meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20). That is the look of grace.
Jesus died on the cross to take the sin of the world on his shoulders, in order to pay the punishment for those sins in order than all who turn to him could receive salvation. That is the look of grace.
Barnabas chose to take Mark with him on his missionary journey, even though Mark had failed him and Paul on a previous journey. Barnabas gave Mark another chance (Acts 15:36-41). That is the look of grace.
There have been times that I’ve yelled at my kids before. They had done something I didn’t like, but my reaction was not right. Afterwards I would have to apologize to them, and they would tell me “you’re forgiven”. That is the look of grace.
Growing up I disobeyed my parents at times (I know you are shocked). And while I often received a punishment of some kind for my disobedience, I was still forgiven and loved the same. That is the look of grace.
I have been doing a lot of looking through scripture lately concerning how we are to treat others, especially when they have sinned and wronged us. What I have found is an overwhelming call to be kind, show mercy, extend love, and to make sure I forgive as God has forgiven me. There are times when discipline has to take place, but even in those times the idea of reconciliation and forgiveness is present.
I am to be gracious, even if the other person never apologizes or accepts my kindness or love or mercy or forgiveness.
We are not responsible for how others react, but we are responsible for our own actions and reactions. We are called to show grace, no matter the circumstance. God has shown it to us, and we are to show it to others.
To see all the posts in this journey to understand grace that I’ve been on, click here.