Reluctant Grace

By Bonnie Hoover

“Mama! Maaaaake him STOOOOOP!”

The annoyance between the nine and eleven-year-olds in the back seat had escalated to the point of my daughter demanding intervention. A quick glance in the rearview mirror and reminder that her brother was returning what she had dished out wasn’t appreciated. Nor was my next suggestion, “Why don’t you show him some grace, and then next time maybe he will show it to you?”

“I can’t show him grace, or he won’t learn his lesson,” came Josie’s reply, which made perfect sense to her.

If I’m honest, my tween daughter’s rationale resonates with me when I’m in similar situations. Whether our spouse has inconvenienced us, infringed on our happiness, or violated our trust, it’s natural to feel the need to punish. We have an innate desire to teach them a lesson, or at the very least hold it over their heads. What is it about the human heart that demands justice be applied to others while begging grace for ourselves? It’s simple—spiritual amnesia.

Somehow, we have forgotten or not yet discovered the amazing grace that Jesus extended to us on the cross. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Did you catch that? We weren’t sorry for our hardened hearts and overtly evil actions. We were still sinners when Jesus came and extended his love and grace to us. That’s what grace is, after all, undeserved favor. Somehow we are happy and thankful to have it lavished on us but feel justified in withholding it from others.

In their book, Grace Filled Marriage, husband and wife Tim and Darcy Kimmel express it this way, “The contradiction for the Christian is to be a willing recipient of the grace God offers us but reluctant to extend the same gift to our spouse. How ironic that the missing ingredient in our marriage when we act that way is the primary ingredient in God’s heart when He deals with us.”

Don’t feel bad. I do it too. I tend to judge others on their actions while hoping they judge me based on my intentions. But, what if we could choose to extend the same grace to our spouse that Christ shows us? Are we afraid it will cost us too much? Maybe we will lose the upper hand in the relationship. Or their actions will continue. Or we might not be vindicated if we let it go. These are all questions I have asked myself when I’ve felt hurt by Daniel or someone else in my life. The answer is easy, but the action I have to take in response, not so much.

God has called us to love others the way he has loved us. That means extending grace in the big and the small things. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary if we want to continue to have a relationship with people we love, our spouse, children, family, and friends. And the results of living this way might surprise us. What if one extension of grace leads another, then another, then to it being returned? How might the weight of judge and executioner be lifted from our shoulders? It could change the very atmosphere of our home and the tone of our relationships.

Why not try it? Surely we can suppress our inner ten-year-old selves long enough to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:12. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” After all, at some point, we’re all going to need that same grace extended to us in the measure we offer it.

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