For quite a while my working definition of grace has been “God giving us what we don’t deserve.” I don’t deserve salvation, I don’t deserve to have the Holy Spirit living in me, I don’t deserve to have God’s help daily. And yet God, because of what Jesus did at the cross, chooses to give me these things. I don’t get them because I’m good. I get them because God is good and I’ve chosen to trust his goodness instead of my own.
As recipients of God’s grace, we are called to give grace to others. We are called to offer redemption to those who are lost, to forgive those who injure us, to correct but not condemn, to go the extra mile and turn the other cheek.
In Matthew 18 Peter asks Jesus if he should forgive someone 7 times if they sin. Jesus tells him to forgive 77 times . . . in other words, give grace a lot. He then goes on to tell a story about a man who had amassed a ridiculous debt – 10,000 talents (1 talent was worth about 1.44 million dollars – you do the math) – and was forgiven completely. Talk about grace! The same man then refused to forgive someone else a debt of 100 denarii (1 denarius was a day’s pay at minimum wage – do the math again) and had that person locked up until he could pay. He wasn’t being unfair according to the laws of the time, but he wasn’t giving grace as he had received it.
Sometimes it’s hard to know where the line is between giving grace and enabling. I don’t pretend to have the answer for every situation. But as I look at the life of Jesus, he was constantly giving grace – giving people what they didn’t deserve.
Unlike Jesus, I’m going to make mistakes and I’m not going to get it right every time. But if I’m going to err, I want to err on the side of giving grace because, at least according to 1. Timothy 1:14, “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” Since I am a grace-receiver, I want to be a grace-giver. This means giving people what they don’t deserve.
When we find ourselves being critical and judgmental, prone to dish out punishment rather than grace, it might be a good idea to stop and reflect on all the grace that we have received: all the sins for which we have been forgiven by God, all the answered prayers, all the blessings that came unexpectedly – and then take time to thank God for his grace in our lives.
Doing so may just put us in a position to give grace to someone who doesn’t deserve it . . . but desperately needs it.