February 10, 2010
Grace to Break the Cycle
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. - James 4:6b
"Why was Eve so stupid?!"
I displayed my own sin nature when I asked my mother that question at the age of eleven. With all the self-awareness a pre-teen can muster, I was doggedly sure that I would not have fallen into the same deception if I had been in Eve's place. She knew God's commandments. She knew the punishment was death. And then, on top of her original offense, she tried to shift the blame to the tempter, when her own hand had taken the forbidden fruit. I was positive that I would have stood firm, and berating poor Eve for the next couple weeks. Certainly, she bore the blame for the sin in my life thousands of years later.
Oh, the irony of pride.
Eve originated the blame game, but we are still busy perfecting it after all this time. The husband leaves his dishes by the couch, causing my temperature to rise every so slightly. I "ignore" the offense, but shrug off whatever question he happens to ask me next. He perceives the slight chill, and gets annoyed at my condescension. My decision to blame him a little gives way to resentment on his part, which will probably continue to escalate until the truth comes out and one of us does something radical. Like apologize.
The cycle that begins with finger-pointing doesn't end with two parties compromising. It ends when someone backs down from the right to continue. Christians should know this better than anyone, shouldn't we? We know that the decision of who is worthy of forgiveness is not ours, no matter how tempting it is. And so easily, we deceive ourselves into ignoring the perceived offense, telling ourselves it doesn't matter, because we aren't escalating the conflict. Or are we?
That would be too easy. Like so many other parts of our faith, we are called to go far beyond mere indifference - we're supposed to turn offense on its head by turning it into "blessing" (1 Peter 3:9).
A friend gave the example of two little girls on the playground. The snotty one say to another, "You're dress is so ugly! You're so ugly in that dress!" The girl wearing that dress could take the so-called high road by walking away from the conflict, and we would probably applaud her for it. But what if she looked at the snotty girl and said, "Well, your dress is really pretty!" and meant it? Wouldn't our mouths have fallen open?
That's the kind of radical grace that pours from a humbled heart.
Intersecting Faith & Life: What does it look like to humble ourselves in such a way that we can return blessing for blame and offense? We won't be capable of such Spirit-filled living until we give up the right to decide who is worthy of grace and leave that in God's hands.
Known by Our Fruit