The need for mercy and grace, whether from God or man, comes from the fact that a wrong has been done. Romans 3:23 states it clearly: “For everyone has sinned, we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”. Yet I love the way it is put in the Message: “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinner and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, GOD DID IT FOR US. Out of sheer generosity He put us in right standing with Himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and RESTORED US TO WHERE HE ALWAYS WANTED US TO BE. And He did it by means of Jesus Christ”. WOW! What I cannot do, God did for me. I am placed where He wants me to be, though I can’t get there myself, nor do I deserve it. I am nothing, and did nothing of merit. He did it all! There is no value in my actions, and immeasurable, eternal value in God’s actions.
My circumstances have shown me that before I can give mercy and grace, I must understand that it is not about what I do or do not deserve. Though someone may have wronged me, or done wrong, that is not truly the point. The point is what God has done FOR ME, and what He wants to do in the life of the other person. It is not about justice, judgment, or even the other person repenting or changing ways. It is about me following the example Christ set before me. Because if I really got what I deserved, where would I be? Humility and a clear picture of who I am and Who God Is quickly puts things in perspective.
But – that does not erase the consequences of actions. Sometimes God gives us Mercy and Grace, but we still face consequences. “…Don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It is the child He loves that He disciplines; the child he embraces, He also corrects. God is educating you, that’s why you must never drop out …God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best” (from Hebrews 12, The Message).
I think of my little girl. Her Daddy and I love her, so we discipline her. She faces consequences so she can learn to live in a way that is better for her. To not discipline her would stunt her growth and maturation, keeping her from becoming a mature, kind, responsible adult. The same thing applies to our relationship to a Heavenly Father. Consequences come to help us grow, not in order to punish, humiliate us or harm us. The purpose lies in our greater good. Yet even then, Grace and Mercy are there – because truly our sin should bring death! (see Romans 6:23).
When I bring this back and apply it to my personal relationships, the understanding of humility is vital. Someone may wrong me, but I have a choice about whether or not to extend Mercy and Grace. The relationship may change because trust and safety are destroyed. That is often a consequence in relationships. It takes time to rebuild trust and safety with someone. I can give God’s mercy and grace, because I have been given a good beyond what I deserve. I can still humbly seek God and ask Him to make me wise as to how to best rebuild and restore that relationship into one that glorifies him and works for His purposes. These things are choices that require much humility, focused effort, and prayer.
I am also learning that pretending the wrong never happened and never dealing with it THROUGH THE FILTER OF GOD’S MERCY AND GRACE is a dangerous thing for all involved. True healing won’t come for either person in the relationship. Removing those God-given consequences might keep the other person from learning the lessons God intended for them. It could stunt his or her personal and spiritual growth. I just have to stay humble enough to constantly and prayerfully ask God how to proceed so that His discipline helps good come, rather than my discipline (or revenge) taking over. I need to seek His wisdom on how to rebuild and restore the relationship in a way that is better, and even healthier than before. Going back to what was there before is a recipe for disaster, and does not allow room for God to grow us through the difficult circumstance. Once again, I have to realize it is not about what I deserve, but about what God has done and is doing in the lives of everyone involved.
It all comes down to a few very simple questions – What do I truly deserve? Who am I truly living for? What do I want my life to be about – God’s ways or my own? Every day of this journey is a day of growth – becoming a bit more merciful, acting and reacting a bit more like Jesus. Yet, being Christ-like is something worth BECOMING!
Thanks for being part of the journey with me.