Monday, June 4, 2012

Extend Grace NOT Justice

How often do we find ourselves in a situation where someone has wronged us and we feel entitled to respond to them in a vengeful way? More than most moments in our lives, the way in which we respond to the people who hurt us, reveals the true condition of our hearts. We are not called to bring justice but instead we are called to extend grace.

A person who does not extend grace to others, is a person who does not truly understand the love, patience and grace their heavenly Father extends to them on a daily basis.

| Alexander Strauch makes the following statement:

"When their feelings have been hurt, people often feel justified in doing anything they want in retaliation. They can leave the church, divide the body, explode with uncontrolled anger, cut people off, lie, hate, and backbite. They try to justify the most wicked, sinful behavior with the simple excuse, “But I’ve been hurt!” Scripture, however, prohibits the spirit of retaliation, the get-even mentality that plagues human nature, with the clear command: “Repay no one evil for evil” (Romans. 12:17 | 1 Thessalonians 5:15 | 1 Peter 3:9)."

"When insulted, we are not to return the insult; when attacked, we are not to retaliate; when criticized, we are not to slander; when hurt, we are not to strike back. The Scripture further forbids seeking personal, private revenge or taking justice into our own hands; “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19). It is God’s prerogative to punish evil, and He will see to it…. Rather than seeking retribution, Christians are to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
Of course we still make selfish choices, no doubt. I'm one of the worst offenders for sure. However, what I've found is that when I reflect on the truths, like those above, what it does for me (personally) is give me tangible ways to battle my selfishness in moments of fleshy-weakness.  By conscientiously remembering these truths, and preaching them to myself, it helps me put things back into proper perspective...into a gospel centered perspective.

I don't deserve God's grace, and yet he gives it to great cost to himself. People will not always deserve my grace, but that's the point. Grace is not not's not's not based on merit. It's an exchange of what is deserved for that which isn't...and it's saturated with a love and longing to see a person restored, healed and transformed.  This is how Christ loved us and this is how we are called to love others.

The reality is that I'll never truly and/or fully understand anything about God's grace (or any of his other attributes for that matter) but I'm certainly looking forward to the day when my heart and life are restored in heaven and I'm able to comprehend things that in my sinful flesh I simply can't fathom.  Until that day comes, my priority is to follow God's lead.  Jesus said in John 13:34:
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."
This is the Christ-centered approach to living life...and it's a gospel-centered approach as well.  When we love others, even when they don't deserve it, we facilitate (through our grace) opportunities to echo God's grace.  When people, who wrong us, see us make the choice (even at great cost to ourselves) to extend them grace instead of vengeance, curiosity will eventually lead them to ask us why we are responding the way we are.  And we can point them to Christ.

It's really a lot simpler than we make it out to be.


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