C.S. Lewis once quipped that everyone thinks forgiveness is a wonderful idea until they have someone to forgive.
Let’s apply that to grace.
Everyone thinks grace is a wonderful idea until they are faced with a situation that calls for it to be applied.
Grace is that which is freely given and totally undeserved; receiving what you do not deserve, and not receiving what you do.
Make no mistake, when it comes to human interaction, grace is a choice; a decision, made in reaction to a situation, which creates one of two scenarios: graciousness, or harsh judgment.
Let’s explore this a bit.
You arrive for your regular morning workout at the gym. You see a morbidly obese person on the treadmill. A dark thought slips across your mind along the lines of “What are they doing here?”
But what would a choice for grace be like?
It’s simple, really. When the dark thought crosses your mind, correct it and choose another. Rather than sneering and thinking that an overweight person has no business in a gym with fit people such as yourself, let grace exclaim, “Good for them! They are trying to lose weight and are here putting in the hard work to do it. Many overweight people aren’t even trying, and they are. Way to go!”
A politician is caught in sexual scandal and forced to resign. The first thought would be to lump all the slimy buggers together, make a sweeping assessment about politicians in general, and say the hypocrite got what he deserved.
A choice for grace might whisper, “If all of my private sins were suddenly made known, would I be forced to resign as well?”
Do we need to keep walking through the other seven deadly sins? If grace can speak to gluttony and lust, couldn’t it change our response to greed, anger, sloth, envy and pride?
Not as a means to excuse sin, or even to respond passively to sin as if it’s inconsequential to our world, much less our spiritual lives. The choice for grace is more relational. It’s the understanding that you’ve never locked eyes with anyone’s sin without seeing the drama of the fall playing itself out on planet earth.
The choice for grace is about seeing past the second chapter of the great theological story; first came creation, then the fall, but then came the wonderful, glorious third chapter of redemption.
This wasn’t just proclaimed by Jesus, but lived.
When everyone else saw a serial adulterer by a well, Jesus saw an evangelist to a city.
When everyone else saw a scheming, greedy tax collector, Jesus saw someone who could right a corrupt system.
When everyone else saw a murderous, hate-filled bigot, Jesus saw the author of much of the New Testament.
When everyone else saw you, full of your sin and dead to shame, Jesus saw a cherished daughter and a prized son.
Grace chose you.
Try choosing grace for others.
James Emery White
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About Dr. James Emery White
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
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