Grace – we love that word! We enjoy singing songs like; “Grace Greater Than Our Sin,” and “He Giveth More Grace,” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” and “Saved by Grace,” and of course “Amazing Grace.” We use the word in a variety of ways, but among Christians its primary focus is the unmerited favor bestowed upon us by a loving God. We often quote Ephesians 2:8-9: ” For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9 ESV).” We treasure the concept of grace because it is at the heart of the gospel. It is our only hope as we stand before a righteous holy judge.
Why is it then, so hard to receive and extend grace to others? Receiving grace is hard, because it is humbling. The greatest offense of the gospel of Christ is that we have to admit that we are sinners – we are not good enough to merit heaven or anything else. We like to see ourselves as imperfect, but basically good; as needing help, but still able to accomplish our own righteousness.” The thought of “saved by grace” is a struggle because we don’t like to think we need to be rescued at all.
If it is that hard for us to admit need and receive grace from a holy God, it is doubly hard to receive grace from another human being. We are forced to recognize that we cannot measure up to God’s standards (perfection), but we would like to believe that we are at least better than other people. The idea of receiving forgiveness and grace from another sinner is just too humbling. we think we are the ones who should give grace, not receive it!
On the other hand, we find it hard to extend grace to other people. They don’t deserve it and often don’t appreciate it. We want to be rewarded by their gratitude, and when that isn’t forthcoming we can quickly become angry with them. But here is the problem; the very definition of grace is centered in the reality that it is extended to those who are undeserving. If they deserved it, it would not be grace. For us to emulate our Lord we must show grace especially to those who are unworthy.
We are called to receive the grace that our Lord provides, and then extend that to others in our human relationships. It is only when we see our own great need that we can dispense grace to those around us.