Sunday, January 18, 2009

Grace Once More… then once more… that does it!

The commencement of 2009 saw one thing change in my focus: for relationships to come first. Not that 2008 was a bad year relationally. I just found the Spirit ushering me gently to focus more and harder on my key relationships, and to respond more consistently in grace.

I was in a place where 95 percent of my interactions would go swimmingly, but I was being undone by the little and testy 20th that would greet me unexpectedly. I started to count ‘complaint-days’[1] in my journal as a personal key performance indicator, as complaint is a sign of a lack of grace. I had twelve of these days in the final five months of 2008. 2009 needed to be better.

Growing in grace is not easy. New Christians never realise this, and for good reason. We get to learn, however, that without a significant growth in grace we cannot hope to mature spiritually. This is an easy journey for the mind compared to the journey required for the heart. In the outworking of life, grace just isn’t that simple, is it?

What does the Bible say (seeing that it is the authority on forgiveness)?

Jesus was teaching the disciples one day about what to do when someone back then did the dirty on them. Peter thought he would be exaggerating when he said, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive… Up to seven times?” (He was thinking seven times would more than adequately cover it.)

Jesus amazes everyone when he responds, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”[2] Imagine being one of the disciples--totally shut down! Jesus then explains the context. How much have they each been forgiven by God? What place then does a forgiven person have to hold back on forgiving such relatively small things (i.e. what people can do to us) as compared with Salvation?

What is this grace-thing? It is rampant forgiveness. It is forgiving people even when we don’t want to. It is probably the hardest thing to do, and perhaps that’s the case because it’s most like God’s nature to forgive hard transgressions unconditionally.

The most important thing I’ve learnt thus far with one very important personal relationship is to simply trust more. It’s for me to be prepared to issue a pure version of grace (is there any other form?) in the spirit of patience in lieu of nothing graceful coming back to me. It is amazing how often this patient grace has led the other person back to me in their heart--perhaps because I have given them space (and a smile) and not issued judgmental criticism when they were feeling low.

Grace once more--when we are tempted to hold back on forgiveness and judge someone--simply works. Don’t give up, give them another chance. They might just surprise you. And if they don’t, keep forgiving them anyway.[3] Grace is not giving up. Everyone deserves a second chance.

And another thing; forgiveness is the way to peace--the more we forgive, the more at-peace we can be.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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ENDNOTES:
[1] I deem a ‘complaint day’ as a day when self-pity or a poor attitude sways me off track for more than a few hours.
[2] Both Bible quotations are from Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV).
[3] This advice does not work for abusive, dysfunctional or co-dependent relationships where boundaries and boundary-setting become this key issue and priority.

1 comment:

Wayne Field said...

Challenging thoughts Steve, thank you. I just finished reading "The Shack" which is another significant challenge for readers to be forgiving in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances.