I have a wise friend who is constantly teaching me about grace. A great point that she made to me some time ago was about the varying degrees of grace we often have for people. For example, I can get bent out of shape over a comment from someone I already have trouble loving. The same exact comment from someone I like might not bother me at all.
Grace is far easier to give to someone you like. Yet, Scripture exhorts us: "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18). Not just the ones I like...the ones that are easier to love? Nope, all of them.
I love the way this verse begins. "If it is possible, as much as it depends on you..." We have a responsibility, a command to do our part. We should be above reproach in the displays of love and grace but I am thankful Paul acknowledges that the other people have a role as well. We do our part. We are not responsible for theirs. Isn't that freeing?
It isn't always easy, but Jesus was a tremendous role model in this regard. He prayed for the forgiveness of the very people who crucified him.
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
And Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us" (Matthew 6:12 NCV)
We live life as sinners doing life with other sinners. There is MUCH room for us to practice grace and love on a daily basis.
While talking to a friend yesterday I started falling all over myself trying to think of the right thing to say to comfort her in her grief. When I hung up the phone I felt like an idiot. There was no right thing to say really. I cannot 'fix' her situation or 'rescue' her from what God is up to in her life. She already has a Savior. His name is Jesus, not Jennifer.
I prayed/pondered/worried/rehashed for an hour or so as I was feeding my children lunch. Then I picked up the phone and called her. I wasn't even sure what I was going to say. When she answered, this is what came pouring out of my mouth:
"I am sorry I say dumb things and babble like an idiot sometimes. I am thankful that you are a woman full of grace. Can I ask you for some grace? Every time I say something that might make you want to cringe can you just hear: 'I love you.' Because, really, all that babbling is just me trying to figure out how to show you that and tell you that. I don't know what else to do or say. I am so sorry for the pain you are feeling and I love you."
My honesty was received well, but I left the conversation feeling challenged and convicted. Can I as freely extend the grace I am asking for? The next time my husband or a friend says something that rubs me the wrong way can I give them the benefit of the doubt? Why don't I use the same filter I was asking my friend to give me?
I absolutely recognize there is plenty of mean-spiritedness in this world, but there is also plenty of room for well-placed grace, peace and trust. Jesus called us to be peacemakers, not scorekeepers.
How many marriages, parental relationships, friendships could be repaired if we heard more of the comments lobbed our way through a filter of grace?