By Kyle Idleman
I’ve discovered it’s much easier for people to receive grace than to give it. I suppose that’s not too surprising.
If had a choice of reading a book titled, Receive More Money Than You Ever Imagined! or reading a book titled, Give More Of Your Money Away To People Who Don’t Deserve It Than You’ve Ever Imagined!, it wouldn’t be a difficult decision.
I’ve also discovered that talking about giving grace becomes more difficult when it becomes specific and personal. Giving grace sounds lovely, until the person is someone who actually needs to receive it from me. Right?
Grace received is beautiful, but having to extend grace can be messy.
God’s grace is greater than any hurt.
You don’t mind giving grace as long as it’s not to the father who berated you, the mother who was constantly critical of you, the neighbor who abused you, the boyfriend who took advantage of you, the spouse who cheated on you, the coworker who lied about you, or the boss who fired you.
I don’t know what wounds you have received. I do know that an effect takes place when grace is experienced. When you’ve truly received grace from God you find yourself compelled to give it to others. In fact, I’d say the extent to which you are able to give grace is in direct proportion to the degree to which you have experienced grace.
And, fans of Jesus are happy to receive grace. Followers of Jesus are compelled to give it as well. Even if they deeply hurt us? Yes, even if they deeply hurt us.
How many times do we have to forgive someone?
One time Peter asked Jesus how many times we have to forgive someone who hurts us. He asks, “Up to seven times?” My guess is that this was not a theoretical question. I bet Peter had someone in mind. I also assume that person was someone close to Peter. Usually only people who are close to us have the ability to hurt us repeatedly. Peter probably feels like he’s been gracious, but now just wants to be done with the person.
Perhaps you can relate because someone has hurt you repeatedly. Or, it may not be the number of times but rather the degree of the offense they committed against you. You’ve been hurt and, like Peter, just want to be done with the person.
Jesus responds to Peter’s question with a parable you’ll find in Matthew 18. It’s about a servant who owes a tremendous debt to his master. The master is in the position of a judge when the servant comes and begs for mercy. Amazingly, the master forgives the debt of the servant. The servant walks out, and happens to see a friend who owes him a very small debt. Suddenly the servant is now in the position of a judge as the friend begs him for mercy. Somehow the servant refuses the request. Even though he’s experienced grace, he’s unwilling to give it. The master hears about this and, deeply offended by the servant’s refusal to extend grace, commands that the servant be brought back in to be punished.
And, fans of Jesus are happy to receive grace. Followers of Jesus are compelled to give it as well. Even seven times? Yes, even seven times.
How can we do better at extending grace to others?
I think it depends on the position we think we’re in. After Hurricane Katrina hit, a man by the name of Mark Morice saw flood victims hanging onto rooftops and clinging to tree branches. He knew they were going to die. He saw an 18-foot boat and wasn’t sure who it belonged to. It was a desperate moment, so Morice took the boat and rescued over two hundred people with it. He then passed the boat on to others who used it to rescue even more people. Eventually the boat was lost. When things settled down the boat’s owner, John Lyons, began looking for it. Mark Morice came forward and confessed that he took the boat and explained that he was able to use it to save hundreds of people. John Lyons sued him for $12,000.
Why did John Lyons sue him? Because Lyons put himself in the position of judge, rather than viewing himself as someone who needs mercy. If Mark Morice had saved John Lyons, or one of John Lyons' kids, that day, there never would have been a lawsuit. He wouldn’t have sued because he would have put himself in the position of someone who needed mercy.
If you’ve been having trouble forgiving someone, it’s possible you’re positioning yourself as a judge rather than someone in need of mercy. Thinking of yourself as the judge leads you to want to punish the guilty, rather than being grateful that you’ve been forgiven. The problem is that if we go through life positioning ourselves as judge, unwilling to forgive, we trap ourselves within our own bitterness.
Freedom Through Forgiveness
The most common word used for forgiveness in the original language of the New Testament literally means, “to release, to hurl away, to free yourself.”
The word translated resentment literally means, “to feel again.” By reliving the past, resentment builds a wall that we become imprisoned behind. It’s only when we put ourselves in the position of needing mercy and having received forgiveness that we’re empowered to extend forgiveness and free ourselves from the cell of our bitterness.
Another problem is that if we go through life positioning ourselves as judge and unwilling to forgive, we will never fully experience God’s forgiveness of us. We may believe we understand forgiveness, but our understanding is only thinking deep. It’s the same thing as reading about whitewater rafting over class 3 rapids. We may have knowledge about whitewater rafting, but we have no real experience whitewater rafting.
Until we actually forgive, we may understand something about forgiveness, but we lack experiential knowledge of what may be God’s greatest gift to us.
Jesus is all about grace.
Following Jesus is all about grace.
Followers of Jesus love grace.
Followers of Jesus give grace.
Even when they’ve been hurt? Yes.
Even seven times? Yes.
They can, because they’ve received it.