Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tuesday Toss-up

Many times, my own shock to a "Christian" displaying abrasive, or "vehement" treatment or correction "in the name of Christ" has left me feeling as if I was flattened by one of those paving rollers. You know what I'm talking about, right? Those big roller things that flatten out the asphalt...

Well, that feeling can really get me thinking about one small word ... "grace." While only 5 letters long, to me, this tiny word packs a walloping punch... and it sure does get the wheels in my tiny brain rolling! Here's some of what goes through my mind: Are we "entitled" to be abrasive or hard simply because we think we're "speaking the truth?" How does that play into how we should live our lives like Christ (as in "Christ-like" or "Christian")? And then ... what does grace look like? How do we act out grace? And, finally ... How would you or I feel if Christ spoke to us harshly? Even if He was "speaking truth into our life?" Would we be taken back by his harsh attitude? Or would we welcome it joyously (uhhh - I don't think I would!)?

I'll just tell you real quick my all-time, hands-down favorite Bible story -- it's when the Pharisees (trying to discredit Jesus) brought a woman to him that was charged with adultery. In those days, adultery was punishable by stoning, and the Pharisees were challenging Jesus to judge this woman. Now, I don't know about you, but my life mirrors this adulterous woman's. No, I'm not an adulterer ... but I am, however, a sinner, and there have been many times when I have sinned, and might have been "deserving" of being dragged in front of my church with the challenge of allowing them to judge me and then "stone me" for my offenses.

But praise God -- we serve a merciful God full of grace. His reply to the Pharisees was, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Can you imagine what must have gone through their minds? "Gee-whiz, Jesus ... did you have to go there?" And one by one, the men dropped their stones and left. And what did the Lord ask the woman? "Where are your accusers." She answered that there were none, and Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin."

To me, Christ displayed grace in action, rather than the "legalistic" approach that the Pharisees were wanting to take. And if my life is to be Christ-like, then, I too should offer the same to others.

So, basically, I'm opening the platform for what your thoughts are about grace. When should you offer grace? At what point is grace most difficult for you? Recognizing the need? Moving closer to someone who is needing grace? Extending the actual "act" of grace? Is it okay for us to judge who does or doesn't deserve grace? Or should we as Christians extend grace to all?

Keep it civil; keep it honest; keep it kind; keep it Biblical.

18 comments:

Mama D said...

I also love that story. It is another fine example of how we should try to be like Jesus. Stories like that from the Bible are the one's we need to constantly be reading. I think we inherently are so quick to judge others and totally forget that it is not up to us.

It is hard not to judge others. The times when this is most difficult for me is when anyone in our church is in a position where they are speaking to others about how they should be living when I know for a fact that they are not a perfect example. I have to make myself consciously stop judging them and remember it is not my place.

Heather Smith said...

I already shared my thoughts on this here! Those thoughts were from my discussion w/ you and your hubby! Grace, we definitely need to show grace. After all, where would we be without the grace God showed to us!

Susanne said...

I love this story too. When I read about Jesus life, I do find that He did have two very distinct reactions to people! While he showed much grace to this woman He also told her to go and sin no more! He always seemed to show much grace and mercy but no compromise to the average person, but to the religous and judgemental He was very hard. I don't know how much harsher you can get than to go thru the "church" with a whip overturning tables. I think there is a very fine balance between grace and mercy but the no comprimise that Jesus showed. When we approach someone the final line is that it is ultimately between them and God.

Melissa said...

What strikes me most about this story is that the woman was CAUGHT IN THE ACT of adultery. She was probably dragged out in front of everyone, naked and ashamed. And my sweet, sweet Jesus showed both mercy & grace to her. The two are very different, but both are necessary.

I just taught a Sunday School lesson on grace. Someone described it this way...Mercy is the "Whew!" Grace is the "Wow!" Mercy is what saved us from the penalty of our sin & eternity in Hell. Grace is all the good stuff God gives...His unmerited favor & eternity in Heaven.

Honestly, I struggle with extending mercy & grace. I tend to condemn and judge. I think if we can ever truly accept grace, it will be easier for us to show both mercy & grace to others. We forget that we really deserve punishment that takes away once we accept Christ. It's His gift to us...nothing we earn by any good thing we've done. When I remember that I'm not entitled to grace, I can give it more freely.

As for speaking truth into people's lives...Paul instructs us to speak the truth in love. Jesus modeled that. Even in this encounter, He commands her to sin no more. He doesn't need to point out the obvious...she KNOWS she's sinned & she's humiliated. He's also quick to point out that no one standing there had the right to judge her. Amazing how the only One who had the right to condemn her didn't.

We are commanded to hold our fellow believers accountable, but I firmly believe judgment is reserved for God alone.

Well, I've hijacked your blog for long enough, my friend. Good thought-provoking toss-up!

Melissa said...

Sorry...I need to correct something.

"We forget that we really deserve punishment that GOD takes away once we accept Christ."

Left out that MOST IMPORTANT word!

Tess said...

I heard a minister define grace one time as the divine influence on the heart reflected in the life. So when I display grace, it is only the amount of divine influence that I allow

If I'm not displaying very much grace, that is simply due to the amount of influence I am allowing God to have in my heart.

PEZmama said...

I have wondered about this as well. My thoughts are more along the lines of "where is the line between extending grace and allowing people to walk all over you?" That is a long thought process that I am not sure I have figured out, so I will spare you.

But, in regard to speaking the truth into someone's life, I think the most important thing is that we take an honest look at our motives before we ever do it. If it feels good to speak such truth to people, then we are probably doing it for selfish reasons. If it is painful, and we approach it with a sense of trepidation, then (more often than not) it is going to be delivered gently and for the right reason (which would be the edification of the other person.)

Personally, I have learned that if I have a hard time moving closer to someone who needs grace, then their "sin" is probably also an issue in my life as well. I am having a hard time right now with my attitude toward the teachers who will be replacing me and my husband in the singles Sunday school class at church. I do not extend grace to them, because, sadly, my heart of heart actually wants them to fail miserably.

So, though they could benefit from me making the transition easier, and HELPING them, I tend to shy away from them, not wanting to extend that grace. But when I am honest about it, I have to admit that the problem is with me, not them.

I don't know if this answers your questions. But those are my thoughts.

Big Mama said...

Anytime I take a spiritual gifts assessment you can guarantee mercy is going to be at the top of my list. I tend to see the best in everyone and yes, it's left me hurt more than a few times. I believe all of us need a huge measure of grace in our lives because we are all so imperfect.

However, I do think there is a difference between remorse and repentance. Remorse led Judas to hang himself but repentance led Peter back to Christ after denying him 3 times. Grace is always easier to extend to someone who has shown true repentance for what they have done.

aggiejenn said...

Growing up I didn't hear much about grace. We didn't talk about God's grace to us or the grace we should extend to one another.

For me, it's easier to extend grace to some people and harder to extend it to others. I agree with PEZmama--when I have a hard time showing grace, it's usually because I struggle with the sin I see in someone else's life. It's hard to remove the plank out of my eye first and easier just to sit in judgment. But that's not what Christ has called me, or any of us, to.

Speaking the TRUTH in LOVE is so important. We are, as fellow Christians, supposed to hold our fellow believers accountable. Jesus pointed out, sometimes harshly, sin in people's lives. He did not, however, beat them down with His words. He was full of grace and truth always, and we would do well to follow His example.

Samantha said...

I loved this post! I've heard a few people say that when they judge people it is usually because they struggle with that same sin, I wholeheartedly agree!

Judging others is definately easier for us humans to do, but only grace allows us to love each other. This is something I need to completely give to God, because I often struggle with it.

Amy said...

The definition for grace in our Awana books was God giving us a free gift we don't deserve. I've also seen it this way:

G - God's
R - Riches
A - At
C - Christ's
E - Expense

Our pastor always says that our main goal is to glorify God in all we do. How can we be doing that when we are judging others? While we can't give the gift of salvation to anyone as Jesus did for us, we can certainly extend grace to others.

You just never know what kind of seed we might plant if we show grace to others! Christ's love should shine through us at all times. We can all talk the talk, but do we walk the walk?

Excellent topic today~Thanks!

kpjara said...

I love the definition of grace I've heard over and over again:

UNMERITED FAVOR

I love that even when we don't deserve it...grace is offered over and over again...new every day an endless supply at our disposal.

My own personal belief is that is the same measure I am to offer others.

uhm...still not there yet, BTW!

Heather said...

I agree ... the Lord has taught us so much about His wonderful grace over the past year and a half that we named our baby "Grace" :-) ...
it's so lacking these days, unfortunately, in the body.

Speaking the truth IN LOVE is not the same as loving to speak the truth ... it's all about the heart!

Blessings!!

~Heather

Shalee said...

That story is really a beautiful description of all of us when we come to realize who Jesus is and what He is all about. We are all caught in the act of fornicating with things other than the glory of serving God.

The thing that draws me in ever further? Even with the temptation of a naked woman in front of his very eyes, Jesus keep his eyes averted and stuck to drawing in the sand. He had the grace to not humulitate the woman further.

Not long ago I sent an email to Jeana about this subject, and if you don't mind, I'm going to just cut and paste share here.

What I was writing about was the fact that I heard a fantastic sermon yesterday that I think applies to your topic. One of the sentences uttered that I remember clearly was this: Speak the truth. Show grace. The minister went on to give several examples of how Jesus did this very thing. No laws were thrown around. No judgments were thrown in people’s faces. He spoke the truth to everyone and then showed grace.

Since we don’t have the all seeing eye of God, I think what falls on us to remember is the showing grace part, especially in areas of difference of opinions – the gray areas of life. No right or wrong situations but the wisdom areas that God has neither approved nor disapproved. And if we get down to it, what will God hold us to? Our words, our actions and whether or not we showed grace when grace was all that was needed. If it came down to being right or extending grace, I hope that I would always pick grace first.


I just couldn't say it better myself. Wait... that was me. I'm brilliant! (Hey there's a first for everything.)

Faith said...

I need lots of grace, so I try hard to be generous with it myself - after all I don't deserve it either!

shannon @ rocksinmydryer said...

All it takes is one hard look into my very, very ugly heart to remember how much I've been forgiven, and am BEING forgiven daily. Makes extending grace a little easier.

Musical Mommy said...

WOW!! I LOVE all of these comments!! Grace is something that we can use to show God's love to others. Christ didn't reach "sinners" by rebuking them...that's how he talked to the "religious folk"...he talked to the "lost lambs" with grace and LOVE!!!

Thank you for posting this...this topic is something that has been on my heart lately too...I've seen WAY too many instances of friendly fire between Christians lately that is just SOO disheartening!!!

Brenda said...

Grace is being given what we don't deserve. Mercy is not being given what we do deserve.

It isn't up to me to decide how much grace or mercy another person should receive from God, but He has extended to me immeasurable grace and mercy, and as a Christian, I should extend the same to others.

Doing so does not mean "live and let live", rather "love your neighbor as yourself" and "do to others as you would have them do to you."

Would I want you passing judgement on me? Of course not, so that means I shouldn't judge you.

Would I want you to correct me if I'm wrong, or at the very least call the error to my attention? Yes, I hope that you would if it were a matter of eternal significance, but please don't bash me over the head with it. Kindly put away the stones and try a different approach.

How 'bout Ephesians 4:2-3? "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."