“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:
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 at Christ’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 4:32—Be 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