Grace To You, Grace To Others

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you may remember my series of posts on grace. I hesitate to revisit them since it’s only been a year since I first posted them. But this blog is primarily a lecture to myself, and I need to revisit them for myself. I’ve been preparing material on it for a women’s retreat in a few weeks and am convicted anew of my need to meditate on, first, God’s grace to me through Christ and, second, Scripture’s clear connection of my grace toward others as an important indicator of how well I understand the first.

I’ll deal with grace in the next few posts. First, what is grace? Second, what does the Bible teach as the connection between God’s grace to us and our grace toward others? And third, what do you do with people you perceive as abusers of grace?

What is grace?

From Dictionary of Theological Terms by Alan Cairns

Grace is “a mode of the goodness of God, often described as undeserved favor. It is more than that. It is underserved favor bestowed upon those who are positively deserving of the wrath of God….”

Note that it isn’t just God’s positive favor on those of us who were neutral in His sight. He is putting His positive favor on us when we deserved His full punishment. This is what makes His grace so stark and different than what we normally perceive as nice, kind behavior. In our world, God wasn’t being kind. He was being stupid.

The Greek word translated grace is charis, which in short means loving-kindness, favor, or gift. However, those three words don’t really plumb the depths of how Scripture uses the term. Hebrew, Greek, and English dictionaries each give really long definitions of grace from multiple angles. But the common thread in each use of the term is that it is NOT about giving what is due.

Verses using charis

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.

(If you work for it and get what you are due, it is not charis)

Luke 6 32″If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

(If you give good back to others who are good to you or extend charity to those who can repay it, it is not charis)

Summary of what grace IS: When you give back what is earned or deserved, it is not charis—it is not grace. It is not favor or benefit and it is not credited toward you as anything other than exactly what you are expected to do. Instead, grace does what is unexpected, undeserved, and out of line with reasonable responses. Grace is an unreasonable response—unreasonably good, but unreasonable nonetheless. And (Luke 6:35) when we give grace, this undeserving favor that does good to enemies and lends expecting nothing in return, then we give evidence to our relationship with our Father in heaven, because THIS is his calling card. He is good to those who don’t deserve it. He is full of grace.

What grace is NOT: It’s not being diplomatic, generally friendly, or polite. Don’t mistake personal politeness or good manners for this altogether different thing named grace to which God has called us. Grace isn’t a character trait inherited from friendly and polite parents. Real biblical grace in us toward others is evidence of the image of God bursting forth in us as He redeems and transforms us.

Grace and humility are intertwined theological concepts. When we get grace, the only choice is humility. Grace is an unreasonably lavish response to those undeserving of it. And it is based on our own understanding of God’s great, undeserved favor toward us.

In the next post, we’ll look at how Scripture clearly links our understanding of God’s grace to us with our extending grace to those from whom we have a right to extract payment. It’s both scary to consider but also potentially the most freeing, life giving teaching in Scripture.

**If you are already feeling convicted (and maybe condemned) because you are angry and bitter against someone who has legitimately hurt you, please don’t dwell in self-condemnation. I encourage you not to try to talk yourself into forgiving them. Instead preach the gospel to yourself. Explore God’s grace to YOU again and again (Ephesians 1-2, Hebrews 1-4). My belief is that the only thing that will equip you and free you to extend grace to this one who has hurt you is to let God’s grace to you saturate you. Understand the weight of your sin. Get a vision for His plan to adopt you into His family and lavish a great inheritance on you through Christ. Understand how He has fully and completely paid the price for your sins on the cross. YOU OWE HIM EVERYTHING, AND YET HIS BALANCE SHEETS SHOW THAT YOU OWE HIM NOTHING. If you get that, you then begin to unlock the door to true forgiveness and grace to the one who owes you.**

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