Sometimes it takes me hearing something multiple times for me to finally stand up and take notice of it. That happened this morning. I heard someone say something the other day and when they said it again this morning, it jumped out and I started thinking about the implications of it.
The discussion was on the extension of grace to people. The general concept was that when grace is needed by someone, they’re all in favor of it, but when it’s someone else who needs it, it’s not so easily given.
Grace is a concept that most of us have trouble with anyway. We don’t always know what to do with something that is offered to us free of charge. We always look for the price tag, and when the price tag is missing or we’re told it’s free, we look for the catch. After all, nothing good comes for free, does it?
If we’re honest with ourselves, we have probably been in that place where we’ve desperately wanted grace for ourselves and then when it came to extending it to someone else, we were reluctant. Jonah was certainly guilty of this when he ran from God. God was merciful to him and when he finally went to Nineveh, he was upset that God was merciful to them.
Why do we have such a harsh reaction to grace extended to others? Is it because of what’s happened to us? Do we feel as if the hurt that we have caused to others is more easily forgiven than the hurt caused to us?
Jesus told a parable of a servant who had the same unmerciful attitude in Matthew 18. After being forgiven a significant amount, he went after one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. It was a fairly extreme example, but it was something that we can probably all relate to if we look closely enough at ourselves.
I waiver between a strong sense of justice and a strong sense of grace and it seems that I follow this same trend, extend grace to me but justice to others. Not something to be proud of, but something to be honest about nonetheless.
I’ve joked about the possibility of bottling up my feelings when I make mistakes so that any time I think I might try something stupid again, I can just open up the bottle and remember how I felt when I did it before. I wonder what a fresh bottle of grace would smell like if I opened it up every time that I was reluctant to extend it to someone else. I wonder if the smell would be enough or if I would need to take a drink of grace to really experience it.
What if we could line up all these bottles of grace stories on a shelf? What if we could take them down every time we needed to be reminded of it? Is it possible to have such a strong reminder of how much grace we have received that we have no choice but to extend that same grace to others? I guess, if I ever really am in doubt, all I need to do is sing that great hymn and remember that, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”