Grace, Given and not Earned

Grace, Given and not Earned.

As I sat on a bench at a station platform on a cold Wednesday morning earlier this month, waiting for my train to arrive, I reached for a copy of the daily metro newspaper which a lady had left behind as she got up to get her train. I quickly flipped open the pages of the newspaper to catch up with the latest news. And there on the front cover was the story of a ‘lost prophets’ band singer, who unfortunately had in the last few days admitted to a series of sexual offences. I don’t really know what drew my attention to this story. Perhaps it was because it was right there on the front page of the paper or I was just meant to see it because of the connection it would have with my journal for this month.

As at the time that I was reading the news, the singer’s tour manager had released a public statement condemning his actions and quite rightly so. Apart from the fact that it is the expected protocol when it comes to things like this, I also suspect that the manager needed to get his public relations (PR) status sorted out before the singer’s indiscretions began to negatively affect his business and reputation. It was also confirmed that HMV, the music departmental store would be removing all his products from their store and online.

You might wonder what my sentiments are exactly with this story. I don’t in any way condone what he’s done and I don’t even know who he is for a life of me. In fact the responses from his manager, HMV and perhaps all his fans are what I expect. However my observations are that we are very quick to pass our verdict, pull all the plugs and safeguard our own positions when others mess up. I am not under any illusion to think that this does not only apply to sexual offenders or murderers but that this is the way we react to people who aren’t as spiritual as we are, those who mess up slightly, backslide, have a slip up etc. This includes a spouse, children as well as other acquaintances. We are very quick to apportion the blame, distance ourselves and in some instances even, we will go down the lane of withdrawing all privileges.

Do you consider yourself to be gracious as an individual, parent, spouse, friend, boss, colleague, pastor etc.? Do you recognise your own shortcomings? Or just because you are not weak in certain areas make you feel superior to others? Do you recognise your own need for grace and appreciate that you were shown grace by a God who did not need to extend His arm of grace towards you and that’s why you are where you are today. However he did, so that you can extend the same grace to others be it your spouse, children, friends, church members, neighbours and even strangers.

As humans, I have found that we are very quick to ask for grace when we know that a lot depends on it but when it comes to giving grace or being gracious to others, we are not as generous. In our churches, are we not quick to judge others and label them as not Christian or holy enough? In fact when we notice that a sister or brother at church is going through a difficult situation, are we not quick to zone in on their lives and conduct with the hope of finding a hidden sin, the consequences of which we think they must be reaping? We sometimes even bring all their actions and words under intense scrutiny and give unsolicited advice that we think will help them when we don’t always fully understand everything that they are going through.

The woman who was caught in the adulterous act in Jesus’ day would have been stoned to death if not for Jesus’ intervention. People were so eager to punish her indiscretions when they hid theirs under their tunics. This I suppose is because we attack in others what we also are guilty of. What we excuse in our own lives, are we not quick to locate in other people’s lives and pronounce judgment on them? The fact that majority of us look so composed and ‘all that’ does nothing to prove that we are really ‘all that’. Majority of us are just great at hiding under the persona of ‘grace’ to such an extent that we forget that it is the grace of God keeping us looking smug. I don’t want you to think that I am all smug myself just because I am writing this. I have to remind myself every now and then to be gracious and remember my own need for grace and the gift of grace that has been bestowed upon me.

Can one be gracious to others without loving them? I don’t think so and I accept that loving others isn’t easy and at times I don’t love well too. According to Mary DeMuth in her book, ‘The Wall Around Your Heart’, we’d rather trumpet everyone else’s failures and barbs and minimise our own. We’d rather God forgive our mountain of sins than choose to forgive the molehill of sins that others have perpetrated against us. We’d rather bask in our self-righteous rightness than consider that we may be the perpetrator in need of others’ grace and forgiveness.

I heard Joyce Meyer saying recently during one of her radio teachings that it’s easy to forget that we have choices when we’re offended. We can surrender our hurt or hold on to them and we can extend grace or harbour bitterness. Wendy Blight puts it this way, “we need to allow God’s grace to flow through us and extend his amazing grace.

The world generally and Non-Christians may not see the need for grace and I can understand that because some people have not been shown any grace either and therefore have no firsthand experience of what it is and therefore cannot pass it on to others. In fact it is the way our legal system is built, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. However you will be amazed at the way we Christians sometimes are unable to be gracious when I would have thought that we would be the ones to show our world what it means to extend grace. We turn our noses up at people, isolate ourselves from them, condemn and judge.

Being gracious does not mean that we don’t set appropriate boundaries or allow people to walk all over us. It does not also mean that we allow others to negatively influence us because we fail to challenge them. But when we are gracious, we will not judge others, condemn or ostracise them as soon as they do us wrong.  Jesus, who is our example, is an epitome of grace and by believing in him, we are to allow his person to transform us so much so that we cannot but extend grace to others.

  • “Grace allows us to forgive, to love when there is no incentive to do so, helps us to be merciful, makes us gentle, repentant, grateful, kind, tolerant, and the list goes on and on”.

Jesus in his day was expected to isolate himself from sinners but he didn’t. He could have told the thief on his side when he was being crucified that he deserved to be hung and not show him any mercy but instead he promised him a reunion in paradise. Again he could have turned his back on Peter when he denied him but he didn’t, instead he promised to build his church upon his ministry.

Can I challenge you to consider how gracious you are as you go into the year 2014 and can I also challenge you to evaluate how gracious you are at home towards those who know you best i.e. spouses, children, family & relations. This is because charity indeed begins from home and you cannot be gracious to those who are far off if you cannot demonstrate grace towards those who are closest to you. In the same vein, we cannot revere God and be ungracious to those he created. Whenever we are looking to others to earn our grace before we give it, remember that the key thing about grace is that it is given and not earned.