I’m still reading the devotional book (Paul Tripp’s “New Morning Mercies”) that Dina asked me to read. I will be reading it all year. I find that about one devotion a week is useful, the rest are fluff. However, because she is willing to keep asking me how I am doing with it, and also listen to me complain and criticize, I am keeping up with it.
I wanted to blog about the January 19th devotion.
Here is the text:
If you look into the mirror of God’s Word and see someone in need of grace, why would you be impatient with others who share that need?
Maybe one of the biggest sins in our relationships with one another is the sin of forgetting. I wish I could say that this is not my problem, but it is. It is so easy to forget how profound your need of grace is, and it is equally easy to forget the amazing grace that has been freely showered upon you. And when you forget the grace that you’ve been given, it becomes very easy to respond to the people around you with nongrace.
It is very clear that grace toward others isn’t best born out of duty. Pretend with me that I plop down on the couch next to my dear wife, Luella, and say these words: “You know, Luella, I have come to the realization that it’s my duty to be gracious to you. So I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you grace, not because I really want to, but because I guess it’s what I have to do.” Do you think that Luella would be encouraged by that statement for a moment? I think not. A joyful life of grace toward others grows best in the soil of gratitude. When I really reflect on who I am, when I take time to consider the grace that I couldn’t have earned, achieved, or deserved but which has been lavished on me, and when I remember that that grace came at the cost of the life of another, then I am joyfully motivated to give that grace to others.
For the believer, harsh, critical, impatient, and irritated responses to others are always connected to forgetting or denying who we are and what we have been given in Jesus. It is very clear that no one gives grace better than a person who is deeply convinced of his own need of it and who is cogently aware of the grace he has been, and is being, given.
Because we forget so quickly, because we fall into believing that we are deserving, and because we tend to think that we’re more righteous and capable than we actually are, we all need to be given grace right at the very moment when we are called to be a tool of grace in the life of another. The God of grace is working his grace into everyone in the room. First John 4:19 really is true: “We love because he first loved us.” Now, that’s worth remembering.
For further study and encouragement: Ephesians 3:14-21
I don’t want to get grace confused with forgiveness. I wrote about forgiveness before. Grace is more broad than that. If you “borrow” my roadster and wrap it around a tree, and you are really sorry and offer to pay for the repairs, then I forgive you. Grace is not just about forgiveness. Grace can just be you being kind and supportive when we play StarCraft 2, even though I am terrible at it. Grace is unmerited favor. I may be terrible at StarCraft 2, but you just keep playing with me and encouraging me until I get better at it (Thanks, Blake!). Grace can also mean just giving you nice things that are extra and unexpected, like sending a Kindle e-book to a friend for his birthday (Happy birthday, Wessel!)
So, here’s my three points about the devotion above:
First, the basis for us giving grace to others is because we have received grace ourselves. It really has nothing to do with how we feel about the person, or whether they deserve it. Grace is unmerited favor, so it’s just something you do to give people some extra care or some extra tolerance. You can look in Matthew 18:23-35 to see how much God wants us to treat other people the way he treats us. He forgives us, we forgive our neighbor. He gives us grace, we give grace to our neighbor. It’s not good if we take the benefits from God and then do not show that we appreciate it by treating our neighbor the same way as God treats us. Think about the Lord’s Prayer: “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
Second, we should be happy that we get the opportunity to give other people grace, because we are imitating God when we do that. In fact, we should be aggressive about seeking out opportunities to do this. What is the point of being a follower of Jesus if you never get to experience what Jesus does by imitating him? We have to share in the same joys and sorrows by doing the same things. I never really like a woman until I see her trying to do actions that are helping to achieve goals that I think are important. I can explain to her what apologetics is and buy her books. But the real joy comes from seeing her read and study and then take action – speaking in public (Dina) or teaching in church (Mary) or organizing an apologetics event (Tracy). I think God is happy in the same way if we try to imitate him as a way of respecting what he has done for us.
Third, we must not underestimate how much grace a person needs by judging how much we needed. Some people need more grace to grow as a Christian than we needed ourselves. So long as a person is moving in the right direction and following Jesus, we should give her as much grace as we can – but still being good stewards of our time and resources. The key is – so long as she is growing in the right direction, and not rebelling. The simple fact is that we are not in a position to know how far any person can go, and God gives us so few people to care for anyway. Why not splurge and give lots of grace to the people we are assigned to care for, even if it’s much more than we needed ourselves? That is the whole point of it – to do more than is expected.