Day 4: Grace
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32 ESV
My oldest started graduate school this fall and as we were driving back from a girls’s day of shopping, she told me this story. She found a new study partner and as they studied for midterms her friend said, You are the most nonjudgmental Christian I have ever met. She continued to share with my daughter how other Christians she’s met along the way either tried to convince her of how sinful she is, or push their “come to church with me” agenda. Here’s the kicker… my daughter’s friend is a Believer.
It seems we Christians have made a name for ourselves even among those who have the beginnings of faith. We are giving the gift of judgment to the world. Ouch! Yuck! UGH!
As we continued our discussion I realized my daughter is far more spiritually mature than I was at her age. The more I know Jesus, the closer I walk with Him, the greater my understanding of who I once was before He saved me. It leaves me with no room to judge.
Judgment or my own agenda never serves to build the Kingdom of God. But grace does. It is absolutely the best gift I can ever give.
My journey with Him has been an ever-narrowing path as He broadens the definition of sin in my life.
To walk in His light is to make yourself open to Him shining truth in dark places. Places I didn’t even know were dark. He reveals new facets of pride, arrogance, selfishness… well, sin in general… in my life regularly.
The more He reveals, the more grateful I am for His forgiveness. The more I understand what all He’s forgiven in me, the more readily I forgive others. In most cases, I can say along with Him: Forgive them for they know not what they do.
For I have been in the same place. Not knowing what I did was sin-full.
Can we talk about giving without talking about forgiveness? This may be the hardest thing to give yet.
Read Matthew 6:9-15
The verses are probably familiar to you. In them we find what Christians refer to as The Lord’s Prayer. The way Jesus taught His disciples to pray. What do these verses say about forgiveness?
The prayer He taught His disciples contains one of the most daunting verses in Scripture: …forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Jesus goes on to make sure they didn’t miss this concept nestled in the middle of the prayer outline: For if you forgive others… your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive… neither will your Father forgive your sins.
We know this radical concept of forgiveness stayed with Peter, because when the subject of forgiveness came up again, he came back to Jesus for clarification.
Read Matthew 18:15-22
After the lesson on dealing with a brother who sins against you, what did Peter ask Jesus?
How did Jesus answer?
According to Rabbinic tradition, forgiving someone three times was considered the limit. Peter after being under Jesus’s teaching about forgiveness more than doubled the number, asking if seven times was enough. Jesus answered with what is translated as seventy-seven times or seventy times seven. In Greek, the word used here can also represent countless times (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).
Jesus’s point was we are not to limit the number of times we forgive a repeat offender who comes with a heart of reconciliation seeking forgiveness. To emphasize this truth, He told Simon Peter a parable.
Read Matthew 18:23-35
What realm was Jesus teaching Peter about?
Who do you most relate to or identify with in the story? Why?
Do you hear echoes of the Lord’s Prayer in this parable? Where? How?
In this teaching of limitless forgiveness, Jesus is describing the Kingdom of heaven, God’s realm. The master is God Himself and the servants His followers. Out of pity, the King was moved to forgive the servant a deep, deep debt he could never repay. The indebted servant deserved to be sold along with his family and belongings, and be held accountable for the debt. Instead, when he asked for patience, he received complete grace.
However, the forgiven servant did not give the grace given him to the one who owed him far less. When the King found out, the unforgiving servant was thrown in jail until he paid the debt. Which of course he would never be able to do.
We too, like the ungracious servant, owe a debt far beyond our ability to pay. Only by an act of the King can we be freed from the burden of our sins. Understanding the reality of our predicament is the bedrock for our ability to forgive those who have sinned against us. Without understanding just how much we owe. Just how much we’ve been forgiven. We have a very limited capacity to give grace to others.
In refusing to forgive another, we take the place of the Judge. All sin is ultimately against God (Psalm 51:4). He alone knows the heart of the ones who sin against Him and whether or not they are truly repentant. We are not to condemn others but to love them as Jesus loves us: forgiving as we have been forgiven.
Read 2Corinthians 5:14-19
Why does the love of Christ control His followers?
How are we to regard others?
What ministry has been given and entrusted to His disciples?
God alone is the offended party when it comes to sin. He alone gets to exact the price for the debt. In Christ, He chose to bear the price Himself for those who believe. He bore the burden we could not.
Read Isaiah 53:4-6
Considering all we’ve talked about today, what moves in your heart as you read these words?
We have no right to hold a grudge against one who seeks reconciliation. We have no ground to stand on when He calls us to reach out to reconcile with those who have injured us. We have no reason to withhold grace, to bear the burden of another’s sin through forgiveness. Because the King has done the same for us.
Only when we see things from the perspective of a servant in His Kingdom, can we pray:
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Talk It Out
Talk it over with yourself:
Do you see yourself as owing a debt you could never repay? one you deserve to be held accountable for? Why or why not?
How would you rate yourself as a minister of reconciliation? Why?
Talk it over with God:
Ask God to open your eyes to the debt you truly owe. Ask for a glimpse of all He endured for you on the cross. Ask for a heart of compassion and mercy for those who have sinned against you.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
2Corinthians 5:18-19 ESV
Exercise Your Faith
There are gifts we’ve been given that can never be repaid. Forgiveness and grace are one of these gifts. We may not be able to repay it but we can certainly pay it forward. In other words, we can give forgiveness and grace to someone else. It seems lavish and generous beyond our ability, and it is. Go ahead, give it a try. Pay it forward today
Say the Scripture with an emphasis on receive today. Say it again.
And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Acts 20:35b NKJV
What have you received from God? Is it something you deserved or earned?
Consider those things you’ve received that can never be returned. Is God calling you to pay if forward? Give the same gift to another?
What thoughts come to mind or emotions well up when you think about what you have received?
 Chouinard, Larry. Matthew. Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997. Print. The College Press NIV Commentary.