GodReflection: Is Grace Still Amazing?
At the risk you or I might reopen an old wound, think of a time when you received a major hurt or offense. Maybe it was from a friend or a family member. They may or may not been aware of their action.
All the same the pain was acute and would not go away.
As a Jesus follower I must consider the calls of his request to forgive and his vivid example—both call out to me.
To complicate matters further perhaps the offender asks for forgiveness—which always demands a response. And, to muddy the water even more, from within I may question the lack of a fully committed heart on both sides. I may voice a thank you, yet the damage remains. The hurt is alive and well.
How can I begin to solve this dilemma that rattles in my soul?
In more reflective moments I must contemplate the back story of Jesus’ walk on earth as fully God and fully man. The four gospels describe a man who is a conduit of God’s love and forgiveness. Each person he meets is assured the love and forgiveness they seek. He always addresses the deepest need of every individual he encounters.
Repeatedly, in word and deed Jesus stresses two biggies; growth in love toward God AND to learn to treat everyone in the same way I want to be treated—WITH the same sacrificial love Holy God always treats me.
In this light Jesus teaches his listeners—and more specifically Peter—a lesson I must comprehend, or I never will learn to give grace to others. But, before Jesus lesson, I need to make one other observation.
I must return to where I began. Our deepest hurts come from those we love and trust. For me, that often equates to people who make up the body of Christ. For you, your deepest hurts may come from family or from those on the outside of the church. Only rarely is that my experience.
Back to the question Peter asked Jesus in Matthew chapter eighteen. Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”
The scope of Jesus answer is what makes grace so hard to give. It is an answer we do not want to hear. It is beyond our capacity to obey. The counter never ends as forgiveness has no limits.
Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
The counter never ends as forgiveness has no limit.
Quickly, Jesus moves to illustrate. He tells of a man who stacked up a debt so enormous payment was impossible. To repay was out of reach. The sum was so great it could not be repaid even if he lived multiple lifetimes. In a flash of reality, the one to whom the money was owed compassionately marked the debt “Paid in Full.”
Now, with a clean slate the debt-less man goes to a person who owes him only a few coins. Without pity he proceeds to have the helpless one thrown in jail until he gets repayment of the insignificant amount of money.
Why is that lesson so hard to see and to accept?
Many of us give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. Although it should be apparent, it may be difficult to imagine the enormity of my debt Jesus marked “Paid in Full.” The reality is the same. My lifetime sin list has no end.
I find comfort In Jesus knowledge of my humanity. I think he knows my struggle. I mentioned above that forgiveness is beyond my capacity to obey. My ability to give grace through forgiveness can only be powered by the Holy Spirit. The more I allow the spirit of Jesus to control my life the more enabled I am to give grace to others.
I need the “Seventy-Seven Times” to experience any kind of success. In those rare times when I am hurt and the pain will not go away, I must forgive that one—and perhaps only—offense time and again. I forgave it yesterday but as the offense creeps back into my mind today I must forgive again. It has sometimes taken the whole seventy-seven and even more.
What do you think? Do you find grace hard to give? Do you sometimes find the gift of grace to be a process? Does, “Seventy-Seven Times” help you offer the gift of grace?
Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection on Why Is Grace So Hard to Give?