Demonstrating Grace

“Be kind and compassionate to one another”…Ephesians 4:32 Recently I had an opportunity to choose between seeking justice or dispensing grace. I was surprised at how much I was pulled in both directions until I finally came to a final decision. I was wronged in a way that the cost would come out of my own pocket even though I was not at fault. The counsel I was given went both ways. Some said to seek justice.

I considered every side of the issue I could come up with, and in the end, I decided to let it go. While I see the damage done to my car everyday when I get in it to drive somewhere, and I would have been within my rights to pursue it further, I decided to not move forward regarding the other party involved who caused the car accident. The owner of the vehicle (a pickup) that hit my car had no idea it was his vehicle involved in the accident as the driver of his vehicle who hit my car wasn’t him. The driver was a young woman who didn’t own it, but she failed to let me know that information at the time of the accident. She did give me the information on her car insurance which is under her husband’s name (he was not the owner of the pickup, either), but it turned out to be expired and not currently valid.

It was the corner right bumper of the pickup that cause the damage to my car when she backed into my car as I was leaving a parking lot. The pickup was not damaged at all. The damage to my car was not such that my car was inoperable nor was I physically harmed. The damage that was done to my car was a significantly large dent in the back left door behind the driver’s seat, and the estimate to get it repaired is approximately $1200.

As it turned out, the “uninsured motorist” coverage on my own car insurance did not cover the physical damage done to my car, even though the woman who hit my car had no insurance that was in effect at the time of the accident. While I carry collision insurance on my car (it is 15 years old now but I kept full coverage on it), it comes with a $500 deductible which I would have to pay out of pocket to fix the door.

I was planning to trade in the car at some point this year on a newer car, and the trade-in value of my car, since it is 15 years old, is not high. I did file claims with my own car insurance company and the car insurance company of the woman who hit my car, and it was the woman’s insurance company who tracked down the owner of the pickup, and he had no idea his pickup had been in an accident. She said I could pursue it with him to recover damages, but I would have to do that through my own insurance company.

As I thought about it, I had an ethical issue (at least to my way of thinking) in doing that because it was not the guy who owned the pickup who caused the accident, and he didn’t even know that his pickup had been in an accident. In the end, since I was planning to trade in my car at some point this year and it is 15 years old, I decided to not pursue trying to get the damage repaired through the insurance company of the guy who owned the pickup. It would go against his insurance premium for several years to come, and he didn’t even cause the accident nor did he know about it. And due to the age of my car, it is not worth me paying a $500 deductible to put a new door on a 15-year-old car that is about to be traded in anyway.

So, I’m now driving my car with a big dent in the back door until such time as I trade it in. I was told that a car the age of mine would most likely end up on an auction block and the parts sold after I trade it in anyway, and the trade-in value of it would not be affected that much because of the dented door because it was low to start with even before the door was damaged.

I mention all of this to say that it is not an easy thing to do when one has the right to try and seek justice or, instead, to choose to turn the other cheek and dispense grace. We live in a world that seeks and wants justice most of the time, and dispenses grace sparingly, if at all in many cases. And, in no way am I “patting myself on the back” for doing this. I am just trying to be honest in what it takes to come to a decision like this when justice could be served but it is set aside instead.

This morning I read a devotion in Our Daily Bread titled, Demonstrating Grace,” by Amy Boucher Pye. Here is what she wrote:

Demonstrating Grace

You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.Micah 7:19

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Micah 7:18–20

In moments where tragedy happens or even hurt, there are opportunities to demonstrate grace or to exact vengeance,” the recently bereaved man remarked. “I chose to demonstrate grace.” Pastor Erik Fitzgerald’s wife had been killed in a car accident caused by an exhausted firefighter who fell asleep while driving home, and legal prosecutors wanted to know whether he would seek the maximum sentence. The pastor chose to practice the forgiveness he often preached about. To the surprise of both him and the firefighter, the men eventually became friends.

Pastor Erik was living out of the grace he’d received from God, who’d forgiven him all of his sins. Through his actions he echoed the words of the prophet Micah, who praised God for pardoning sin and forgiving when we do wrong (Micah 7:18). The prophet uses wonderfully visual language to show just how far God goes in forgiving His people, saying that He will “tread our sins underfoot” and hurl our wrongdoings into the deep sea (v. 19). The firefighter received a gift of freedom that day, which brought him closer to God.

Whatever difficulty we face, we know that God reaches out to us with loving, open arms, welcoming us into His safe embrace. He “delights to show mercy” (v. 18). As we receive His love and grace, He gives us the strength to forgive those who hurt us—even as Pastor Erik did. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, Why We Should Extend Grace to Others,” by Larry Thompson, International Director, Athletes in Action, Cru’s sports ministry (Cru was formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ), he writes:

One of the most frequent reasons missionaries return home is due to interpersonal conflicts.

When one of our American missionary women first arrived in Eastern Europe many years ago, I asked about her previous experience.

She told me that after finishing college, she’d worked two years with a small mission in Africa, where she taught school for the children of missionary families.

“That must have been a wonderful experience,” I said.

“Oh no,” she replied, “it was awful!”

She explained that ministry with the children was great, but living on the mission compound was awful due to infighting between the missionary families.

Within two years the conflict had become so serious the mission center closed down.

The closing created a domino effect that closed other mission centers and, tragically, led to the folding of the mission.

Growing Strong in God’s Grace

What happened? Why did people who loved the Lord and wanted to make Him known make choices that led to such heartache?

The answer, I believe, is that those families failed to live according to God’s grace.

Unfortunately, this story is repeated often, not only on the mission field, but also in the lives of individual Christians and their churches.

And it could happen to us.

As this Easter season approaches, I believe all of us need to take a fresh look at God’s grace and how to grow strong in the grace that comes from the Cross. 

I first began thinking about this topic several years ago, while memorizing the first few verses of 2 Peter. Verse 2 says, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you.”

What does it mean to have grace multiplied to you? I began to ask myself.

It occurred to me that many of the Epistles mentioned something of grace and peace in their opening greetings. I looked at 2 Timothy 2, which begins with Paul’s admonition to Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

What does it mean to be strong in grace? I wondered.

Of course, I understand and can give the definition of “grace”—God’s unmerited favor—and I can even give the clever acrostic for grace—God’s riches aChrist’s expense” (GRACE).

But what does this mean in an experiential sense?  How can we live according to grace and avoid the mistakes of that mission compound? I began searching for some deeper, yet practical, insight into what it means to be “strong in grace.”

The answer, I discovered, was quite down-to-earth: We grow strong in grace when we understand God’s unconditional forgiveness of us, then learn to unconditionally forgive others.

Understanding the Cross

Although Easter rolls around just once a year, we should, in reality, celebrate Easter every day by reflecting on what Christ did for us. Christ’s death on the Cross is more than just an event in history, or a symbol of Christianity. It represents the very foundation of God’s grace.

If we hope to grow strong in grace, we must develop a deeper, more personal appreciation for what Christ did on the Cross.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, New International Version). His love for us is unconditional. We do not earn His grace:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV). Salvation, and God’s forgiveness, is a free gift! We don’t deserve it.

Though once we were enemies of God, according to Colossians 1:21,22, now, through His shed blood, we are set free and reconciled to Him. He canceled out the certificate of punishment and death against us through His shed blood on the Cross.

This is only a sampling of what God reveals to us in His Word about the meaning of the Cross. We need to continually study the Scriptures to understand, deep in our souls, just what Christ did for us. We deserve nothing, yet through the Cross, God gave us everything. This is grace.

I personally begin virtually every prayer time, whether privately or in a group, with an expression of my deep appreciation to God for redeeming me. I spend time thinking and reflecting on His redemption of me.

He sought me out when I was in rebellion, and He brought me unto Himself. I am deeply grateful.

Indeed this attitude of gratitude should be the foundation of our worship and service.

Giving Grace to Others

God wants us to grow strong in giving grace to others. Giving grace to another person is simply to forgive them, unconditionally, just as God forgave us through Christ.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13, NIV).

Just as we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, someone you know may not deserve yours. It doesn’t matter: We are still commanded to forgive them.

In our family, when we apologize to one another, we don’t just say, “I’m sorry.” Rather, we make sure that each person specifically admits what he did wrong and then specifically asks forgiveness for that wrong.

The person forgiving must reply with a specific “I forgive you” instead of saying, “Oh, it’s OK.” It wasn’t OK. It was wrong! It is, however, forgiven.

As we have trained our children, we’ve sought to teach them the true meaning of forgiveness and to see that even though a person is wrong, you can still forgive them, and apply grace to the person who wronged you.

The opposite of forgiving can become tragic. We see tragedy in the case of the mission center and, much too often, in individual relationships, the workplace and even in the church.

There is no middle ground with forgiveness. We either apply God’s grace or we follow a road toward bitterness.

Hebrews 12:15 tells what happens when we fall short of grace:

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (NIV).

Not forgiving means to fall short of the grace of God, and that results in bitterness. A root of bitterness doesn’t destroy the other person, but instead destroys ourselves and those closest to us — just as it destroyed the mission compound in Africa.

God’s Far-Reaching Forgiveness

For me personally, learning to extend grace toward others and forgive unconditionally has been one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned.

Indeed, God is still teaching me this lesson. I often fall short in my relationships and responsibilities with my family or co-workers. I then must humbly come and ask their forgiveness.

Likewise I must be forgiving to my wife, children and fellow staff when they fail. In the role of a leader I have endured some very difficult experiences that could have led to holding a grudge or developing a root of bitterness. These truths of giving grace to others and not harboring a root of bitterness have preserved and protected me.

The choice is clear, and extremely serious. Determine not to fall short of the grace of God.

Remember that Christ forgave you far beyond what you deserve, and forgive others in the same way.

Give up that grudge or bitterness. Forgive that family member, friend, associate at work or other person with whom you have a problem.

The stakes are high, for if you fail to grow strong in grace, and are unable to forgive, you are charting a path to pain and heartbreak—not for the other person, but for yourself. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from Ephesians 4:32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ…

God . . .

Forgave . . .

You . . . .

YouTube Video: “Forgiveness” by TobyMac ft. Lecrae:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Strangers Among Us

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” –The author of the Hebrews (13:2) in the New TestamentI read an interesting devotion this morning (January 6, 2020) in Our Daily Bread titled, Mysterious Helpers,” by Sheridan Voysey, writer, speaker and broadcaster in the United Kingdom. Here is that devotion:

Louise suffers from muscular dystrophy. While trying to exit a train station one day, she found herself facing a large flight of stairs without an elevator or escalator. On the verge of tears, Louise saw a man suddenly appear, pick up her bag, and gently help her up the stairs. When she turned to thank him, he was gone.

Michael was late for a meeting. Already stressed from a relationship breakdown, he started battling London’s traffic only to get a flat tire. As he stood helplessly in the rain, a man stepped out of the crowd, opened the boot (trunk), jacked up the car, and changed the wheel. When Michael turned to thank him, he was gone.

Who were these mysterious helpers? Kind strangers, or something more?

The popular image we have of angels as radiant or winged creatures is only half true. While some appear this way (Isaiah 6:2Matthew 28:3), others come with dusty feet, ready for a meal (Genesis 18:1­–5) and are easily mistaken for everyday people (Judges 13:16). The writer of Hebrews says that by showing hospitality to strangers, we can entertain angels without realizing it (13:2).

We don’t know if Louise and Michael’s helpers were angels. But according to Scripture, they could have been. Angels are at work right now, helping God’s people (Hebrews 1:14). And they can appear as ordinary as a person on the street. (Quote source here.)

On October 25, 2019, I published a blog post titled, The Other Side,” on this blog that dealt with the topic of angels, and it included a four-part series on angels by Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, published on Harvest.org. You can read that series of articles at this link. I published that blog post a few days before Halloween since the emphasis placed on Halloween usually centers around the dark side of the spiritual world.

Angels are not a topic I usually deal with on my blog posts as I leave that topic to others with more knowledge about them from a Biblical perspective. However, we all run into strangers every day of our lives (and we, ourselves, are strangers to others that we pass by) when we are “out and about” doing whatever it is we do on any given day, and this is what I want us to give consideration to in this blog post.

The question for this blog post is this–How do we treat the strangers that cross our paths at any given point in time? Much of the time it depends on the situation, and most strangers we just pass by quickly as we are walking down the street or down an aisle in a store, or walking through crowds in malls and elsewhere, or when we are driving down the road or highway. Dare I say that it probably never crosses our minds that we might be entertaining an angel in the midst of all of those strangers that cross our paths. Well, if one takes Bible verses seriously, Hebrews 13:2 clearly states that it does happen to some of us.

Whether or not we are do actually cross paths occasionally with an angel unaware, it is important to consider how we treat the strangers among us. In answer to a question on Quora.com asking, Does It Matter How We Treat Strangers? Why?” here are a few of the answers they received:

Morgan Oxley, Certified Hypnotist from National Guild of Hypnotists, responded:

Here’s a great quote: “You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat someone who can do absolutely nothing for them.”

In the past, human beings have been indifferent, afraid and even cruel to strangers. In the modern world, we’re confronted by strangers all the time.

As some of the other good responses to this question have pointed out, how you treat someone has a lasting impact on them. If you’re kind, it lifts them. If you’re unkind, it drags them down.

Humans are fundamentally emotional creatures, and emotional contagion exists. If you treat someone poorly, they’re far more likely to let it “roll down hill” with the next person they meet.

Being kind to strangers, even a quick hello and a smile makes people feel connected and accepted and makes it far more likely that they’ll be kind to the next person that they meet.

Isn’t this the world we want to live in?

You live in a world full of strangers. It’s no longer optional to be kind to people you don’t know. It’s becoming an imperative.

William Bates, writer, historian, and reflector on wisdom, responded:

According to the fairy story, a stranger came to town and agreed a price with the council for getting rid of their plague of rats. He kept his side of the bargain but the townspeople refused to pay him. As he walked away from the town, playing his pipes, all the children followed him and entered a hill, never to be seen again.

In other fairy stories a stranger is eventually shown to be a person who has power to do great good to those who treat them well, even though they initially appeared as poor or very old. The message is clear: treat strangers well because, in spite of their appearance, they may have power to hurt or enrich you. While such stories relate to people’s fear of unknown and initially mysterious travelers, they also speak to a deep rooted obligation in traditional societies to offer hospitality to strangers.

Jesus takes a rather different approach to strangers whom he views as having a temporary need for food and shelter. Jesus identifies himself with such people and says of those who enter his heavenly kingdom, ‘I was a stranger and you invited me in’ (Matthew 25:34-36).

In the first century some teachers of Christianity traveled from church to church and the apostles encouraged believers to show these strangers hospitality. Some unscrupulous people, who could spin a good yarn but did not really follow Jesus, took advantage of churches. In 2 John 7-11 believers are warned, “Do not take them into your house or welcome them”. While this does not take away from the teaching of Jesus, it is a reminder of the need to try and discern the genuine from the deceitful, even if we try to give a stranger the benefit of any doubt.

In today’s world this is live issue globally as well as at a more local level. Children are rightly warned to be wary of strangers who might be grooming them prior to some kind of abuse. Yet even when this is taken into account, the truth is that some time I may be in an unfamiliar country where I know no one at all. On the day when I find myself in the position of being a stranger, I will really appreciate being shown some kindness and hospitality. If that is how I would wish to be treated in those circumstances, it makes sense to build the kind of world in which strangers are treated with fairness and compassion.

Ganesh Thayagarajan, “your friendly, over-the-top amateur writer,” responded:

I work as a cashier at a supermarket. I meet strangers every single day. And let me tell you, it is important to treat these random people with proper respect.

I may not know them, and they most certainly do not know me, but we are all living our lives. We have our struggles, our peace, but what we choose to let out when we interact may make or break someone else’s mood completely.

I’ve had people treat me like garbage. My colleague was racially abused for making a minor mistake. Subsequently, I have caused upsets for these strangers with my mistakes. And sometimes they get angry when something is out of my control.

Sure, we don’t even know one another! What difference does it make?

A whole lot.

We may not know one another, but there is still a need for common respect for each other. Despite what we may be facing, it isn’t right for us to treat others we, let alone don’t even know, like they are nothing.

We all are living life. Though we may be strangers, there is still a need to treat each other properly. It is how we can live peacefully.

Keep that in mind when you want to piss a stranger off.

Mike Rommel, three years of Bible school, 25+ years in the working world, responded:

Yes, of course it does. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, then he was asked, “well who is my neighbor?” That is where you get the parable of the Good Samaritan. Go find it and read it for yourself starting at Luke 10:30. Then there is this verse….Hebrews 13:1 “Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.” Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.”

Barke Saidstating this is what worked for me, responded:

Yes it does matter, so so much.

Treating people defines who we are. You don’t have to know someone for you to treat them nicely. Treat everyone nicely regardless of who they are and whether you know them or not. Because you never know that you may mistreat a stranger who will turn out to be your job interviewer, future boss or a distant relative. So you need to be cautious. And I don’t see any harm in treating strangers nicely however, there is a lot of risk and maybe harm in mistreating them. (Quote source here.)

Those few quotes should get us thinking about how we treat others we come into contact with on any given day. And, it’s not too late to make a new resolution for this new year to make an effort to treat others as we would want to be treated, especially the strangers in our midst (and maybe family members, too).

I’ll end this post with two statements Jesus made in Matthew 7:12“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets,” and in Luke 6:31

Do to others . . .

As you would have them . . .

Do to you . . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here