It is a sore point of mine that the church is good at bestowing “grace” upon whom it deems worthy of it. If you listen carefully, you can hear this in the conversation of many who call themselves “Christian,” “We love those who think like us.”
Imagine if God thought that way. If He did, then John 3:16 would likely have never been penned.
Grace, by definition, is “God’s unmerited favor.” That means, there is nothing we, ourselves, could ever do to earn or deserve it. And, yet, God gave it to us abundantly in the person of Jesus Christ.
So, if God gives it freely and abundantly – and our goal is to be like Him – shouldn’t we give it just as freely and abundantly?
Going back to John 3:16 for a minute — God extended Grace to a world that had been completely ungracious to Him.
Let that sink in…
Let’s go to our core text:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:14-18)
Here the Apostle Paul is reiterating some key teaching from Jesus:
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:44)
The first key in extending grace to the ungracious is forgiveness. You cannot truly love and bless anyone whom you do not love. Now this one is a hard one to take and I’m preaching to myself more than anything else here, but true love is forgiving. It’s easy to love those who have been a blessing to your life. It’s easy to thank those who have always been there for you. But what about those who have gossiped and spoken ill of you? What about those who have abandoned you at the point of your greatest need? Do their actions absolve you of your mandate to love?
In fact, the Scripture tells us that we are to bless them! And by blessing, I don’t necessarily mean giving them stuff — but if God tells you to do that, then do it faithfully! The blessing is always speaking well over someone. The Bible tells us that the Blessing of the Lord makes rich and adds no sorrow with it (Proverbs 10:22).
Notice that it says that the blessing makes rich, not the blessing is riches! It’s what God speaks over us that matters!
Therefore, we are not only to speak well over those who hate and abuse us but to speak what God’s Word says about them as well.
If you can’t say, “Amen,” say “Ouch!”
The second key in extending Grace is empathy. I’ve said this before and, in this case, it bears repeating:
- Love is the hallmark of salvation (John 13:35).
- Compassion is the hallmark of love (Matthew 9:36).
- Empathy is the hallmark of compassion (Mark 10:21).
- Therefore, if there is no empathy, then salvation is suspect.
Empathy simply means you take a walk in another’s shoes. It means not making judgment about a person until you’ve understood what they’re going through. In church, we often talk about “loving people where they are” but you cannot love anyone at all unless you have empathy for them. That “loving people where they are” is at its most hypocritical on Sunday morning — because, in the minds of those who say this — it means “I’ll love you as long as you change to my way of thinking.”
That’s not empathy, that’s manipulation. And manipulation is witchcraft!
Often, when we should be celebrating with someone, we’re (at best) wondering why God did not bless us or (at worst) cursing the celebrant and hoping their blessing isn’t lasting. Likewise, when we should be weeping and mourning with someone, we’re celebrating their pain.
I’m talking about so-called “Christians” here. “Church folk.”
Don’t look at me with that tone of voice…I’ve seen it happen! Church folk, unfortunately, can be some of the most ungracious folk there are.
Empathy is one of the things most lacking in the modern church but it should be one of the most prevalent.
The third key of extending Grace is living in harmony with others. The second point of the purpose of the five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11-17) is “until we all come together in the unity of the faith.”
Folks, the church can’t even live in harmony with itself, much less promoting harmonious living to the world. Church folk exercise by running their mouths and jumping to conclusions — in their own churches. Denominations cannot reconcile their differences with one another. Churches with a predominate racial makeup don’t fellowship with churches of other racial makeups.
Instead of all this foolishness, the Church should be the place where the fountain of grace flows continuously. The church should be the place where the world sees the paradigm of unity and harmony. But, to be honest, you cannot have harmony without Grace, which is unmerited favor, which can only be received by the Spirit and dispensed spiritually first, then naturally…
The fourth key of extending Grace is setting aside our prejudices. I’m not going to list them all here but we all have them. We need to have friends of different ethnic and social groups. And, when I say, “friends,” I mean exactly that — not mere acquaintances. The Body of Christ cannot afford to look down its collective nose at anyone. If all your friends look like you, think like you, and live in the same neighborhood as you, you’re probably not extending Grace.
The fifth key of extending Grace is not being wise in your own sight. In other words, don’t be an arrogant know-it-all. All of us see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12) and don’t have all the answers. God promises to give us wisdom if we ask for it (James 1:5) but that wisdom is not intended to be used as a lever against others. True wisdom is always a blessing to others — just ask Joseph (Genesis 41:39-40)!
Paul wrote that knowledge puffs up but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). If we try to impose our will on others though our knowledge, we are operating in neither Love nor Grace.
The sixth and final key to extending Grace is to not repay evil for evil. I, personally, was a scorched-earth kind of dude. Derrick was not a nice guy. If you crossed me, I’d spare no expense at getting you back.
That ain’t the way to live.
God said “Vengeance is mine” (Deuteronomy 32:35). In other words, we’re not to go after the people who do us wrong. In fact, going further into Romans (Romans 12:19), Paul tells us how we should bless our enemies as Jesus did. Getting back at the one who does you wrong makes you just as bad as the one who did you wrong. There is no grace in that!
I can’t say it any better than Jesus, so I’ll use His Word to wrap this up:
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:32-36)
By extending Grace to the ungracious, we demonstrate both who we are as disciples and whose we are in Christ.
© 2014 – Derrick Day (www.derrickday.com)