Demonstrating Grace

Luke 6:27-38

In the Gospel, Jesus gives us a blueprint as to how to demonstrate grace.  Grace has many facets to its definition, but it starts out as this: “Grace is the supernatural gift that God bestows entirely of his own benevolence upon men and women for their eternal salvation.”

 

Let me highlight three manifestations of grace, illustrated by the way we demonstrate it to others:

 

1) Demonstrate grace in the way we respond to mistreatment by others.  The words of Jesus in the Gospel are dominated by action words, imperative commands: Love. Do good. Bless. Pray. Turn. Do not stop.  Give.  Do not demand.  The way we react demonstrates (reveals) who we are. Are we able to still love while being mistreated or do we hold grudges and live in resentment?

 

Most of us have had the experience of being involved in a grievance, on one side or the other, where one party holds a grudge on another. Many become trapped and overwhelmed by the resentment that will no doubt follow. If left unaddressed, resentment can consume us.
                      i
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the wounds we receive when an individual, group or institution treats us unjustly.
Our range of emotions can go from anger to bitterness to animosity and it almost feels better to hold onto those emotions than to let it go. We’d rather be mad than sad.

 

There’s a painfully true saying that “resenting someone else is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die”. In other words, when we harbor resentment, the only person it really hurts is the person who is being resentful. Even if the other person knows of it and feels its repercussions of the resentment, the impact on them pales in comparison to the impact on the person doing the resenting. 
                                                                                             
There is no doubt that people or organizations or institutions will wrong us, sometimes very deeply, whether with malice or not. But when we let this fact get in the way of us living with peace and joy, we only hurt ourselves. 

 

In order for us to be the type of people who love those who hate us, or pray for those who mistreat us, we have to be close enough to others, be involved enough in their lives, and be open to reconciliation, in order to demonstrate grace, and touch others with it.

 

2) Demonstrate grace in the way we would like grace to be shown to us.  If we ourselves really want to be loved, why would we be unwilling to love others?  We demonstrate concretely to others that we want to be loved by the way we treat them. 

 

Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.”  The point is simple.  Do something out of the ordinary. Love is the difficult choice; it is easy to love those who reciprocate; it is much harder to love those who are ignored and brushed off as mere irritants.

 

What’s really difficult to get our earthly minds around is that Jesus expects us to love without expectation of reward for our graciousness in this world.  He says we should live and love with only the expectation of being rewarded by God, and perhaps, not even in this world.

 

3) Demonstrate grace in accordance with the grace shown to us. Historian and theologian, Howard Marshall, wrote, “The Mercy of God supplies both a pattern for his children to follow, and a standard of comparison for them to attain.”  So when God Himself is the standard of comparison and the pattern for us to follow, we must ask ourselves, “Should there be anyone outside the scope of the grace we display?”  Our God is even kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  Are we willing to demonstrate to others the sort of God we serve by the way we imitate him?

 

Think about how much mercy we ourselves have been shown.  Think about all of the transgressions that we are responsible for that God has forgiven and forgotten!  We recall the words, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins.”  We need to ask ourselves, have we waited for others to repent before we forgave, or has our forgiveness been proactive, preemptive, and unconditional?

 

So let us pray to God, that he will guide our eyes to his everlasting grace, and that we, in turn, will be inspired to demonstrate, more fully, our grace in response to him.  As the Gospel tells us, if we give our grace, we will be rewarded greatly – gifts in good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, and poured into our laps.  Let us live with that expectation, and thank him for his goodness and his graciousness!

Amen

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