“… But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons/daughters of your Father in heaven.”
I’ve spent enough time with Christians and been one myself long enough to know that most of us, if not all of us wrestle with the topic of grace. There’s a tendency within myself to strive for goodness and approval; sometimes to the point of forgetting that perfection actually isn’t possible. I used to cling to the notion that grace demanded right behavior as tribute but I’m learning that grace in its truest form doesn’t demand right behavior, but instead initiates and produces it! When we receive grace, something miraculous takes place in our spirit-man! Truth’s seed can be planted in our hearts but without grace, it will never grow! Grace is like living water, breathing new life into all it touches.
We can often gauge our own understanding of grace by how we treat those who don’t deserve it, including ourselves. You see grace isn’t complete without mercy. It’s not just giving someone something that they don’t deserve like forgiveness, its also not giving them something that they deserve like judgment or condemnation. It was interesting for me as I began to discover my own tendency to deny even myself the grace offered to me in the Word of God. You see, for how ever much I denied others grace, I was usually even harder on myself for my own shortcomings. The sad part about that tendency is that we as Christians can’t bestow grace until we understand it, and we can’t understand it until we’ve fully received it! In other words, when we fail to receive it, we also fail to give it because we don’t understand its value and we lack the compassion that grace and mercy both produce and require! Christ offered us forgiveness and redemption when we didn’t deserve it. I don’t know about you, but I still don’t deserve it. Well, okay I lied, I do know about you… you don’t deserve it either but I only know that because God’s Word says so in Romans 3:23… “
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Although most Christians would never admit it, we have the tendency to want to view grace as an injustice because it seems to take the place of justice. Make no mistake, God is both full of Grace and Truth. It is Truth that makes Him just; He sees things for what they are and although He loves and meets us where we are, He doesn’t ignore what needs to be dealt with. Grace forgives sin, but grace also deals with it! God desires to prosper His people and to give them a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Instead of ignoring sin, He deals with it, transforming us into who He’s called us to be; all the while lovingly and patiently meeting us where we are! God hates sin, but He does NOT hate people; His heart overflows with compassion and love for us! This is the model that He has given to teach us how to love others, even those who don’t deserve it. We are called to love and meet people where they are.
I had someone once ask me what I thought about Matthew 5:38-48 and what it meant, as if maybe it had an alternate meaning of some kind. My response was that this scripture passage means exactly what it says, without exception! Don’t worry if you have struggled with this verse though because so have I! In fact, I have often caught myself ignoring and avoiding it because of the mere inconvenience! But no more! It is the way of Jesus, and therefore, Christians must follow! It’s not about what we do or even don’t do, it’s about what He’s already done and is doing! By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to rise above sin, find freedom, and fulfill God’s calling on our lives! God promises us spiritual victory if only we will trust Him! I love that even though this is a promise of God, His love for us doesn’t depend on what we do! Praise God, because we are not the least bit dependable and we fail! This quote from a prayer by A.W. Tozer sums it up:
“If nothing in us can win Thy love, nothing in the universe can prevent Thee from loving us. Thy love is uncaused and undeserved!”
People will hurt you, disappoint you, offend you, persecute you, violate you, and break your heart. These are the people that we are called to love. In fact, Matthew 5:38-48 makes it clear that we can’t call it love if we only show it to those that make loving them easy! So love well! Forgive and accept forgiveness! Give grace to those who don’t deserve it and actively choose to love those who deserve the opposite, those who’ve earned judgment. Show mercy to the guilty, even the mean-spirited; Jesus did and aren’t you thankful?! I know I am! May God Bless You All!