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GRACE

by | Sep 3, 2018

I’ve heard it said that grace, and the idea of unmerited favor or forgiveness is unique to Christianity, among other world religions. I’m not an expert in comparative religions, but I suspect that idea is true, since Christ is unique to the Christian faith.

Wayne Grudem, in his book Systematic Theology (Intervarsity Press, 1994. P. 729), explains that since mankind was unable to earn our way back to God after the fall (described in Genesis 3), the Lord had to create a way for us to regain that relationship. That Way, was the cross of Christ.  Grudem rightfully says that God was under no obligation to seek a renewed relationship with mankind, much less impute our sin to Christ, or His righteousness to us.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph 2:8

As the counselors at Community Christian Counseling work with individuals and families on all manner of life’s struggles, the topics of grace and forgiveness are common.  It is always hurtful to be abandoned, disrespected, forgotten, injured, or ignored. The world would demand justice, pay-back, shame, even public humiliation in return. Paul provides some other ideas on how to respond when we are persecuted. Romans 12 is a short chapter, and worth reading. Essentially, Paul, says repay unkindness with kindness. Extend grace.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days with my siblings and adult son.  We all live many miles apart, so those times are rare and precious. Like most families, we did our share of reminiscing, and we are very fortunate that most of our family memories bring smiles. As I was considering what to write on this topic of grace, a particular memory came calling.

Growing up, and on more than one occasion, my Daisy Red Ryder B-B gun got me into trouble, especially with my Dad (and yes, I still have a Red Ryder sitting by my patio door).  This particular memory involves a Mockingbird.  You see, I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and the Mockingbird is the State Bird of Texas.  That means it is against Texas State law to kill that particular kind of feathered friend. A utility line crossed over and above our yard, and one afternoon I just happened to see a Mockingbird land on that line. My Dad had given me very clear and distinct orders: “Do not shoot Mockingbirds!” There was no misunderstanding or confusion on my part. I heard his command, and, up to that point, had been obedient. But this bird was right there. Since this occurred MANY decades ago, I cannot remember why that bird’s presence, on that power line bothered me, but there you go.

My thought was, “I’ll just shoot over its head and scare it away.” Well, with one shot, the Mockingbird was instantly dead, and dropped with a thud at my feet. The feathers had not begun to settle, before my Dad slowly opened that back door and was walking over to the scene of the crime. I loved my Dad. He was an excellent Dad, but that afternoon this pre-teen was introduced to fear and dread!

I do not remember what he said at first, but I do certainly remember wishing I was someplace, any place, other than standing there with the Red Ryder in my hand, and the dead bird at my feet. After some short amount of time – although it did not feel short, I said something I had heretofore never thought, much less uttered, “Well, I’m going inside to see what Mom is doing.” 10 year olds typically don’t ever wonder what “mom is doing inside”. Dad did not so much as glance at the dead bird, nor did he mention it – ever. He allowed me to retreat into the house, in silence. I knew that he knew what I had done, and he knew that I knew. I was completely guilty of willfully transgressing the boundary, and had been caught in short order.

Many Dads, least I say, most Dad’s, would have provided a stern lecture, confiscated the Red Ryder, and probably provided a paddling – which was still a legitimate parental option in those days. My Dad was most wise; he was silent. His silence was not from fear of confronting his young son – I assure you!  But be also assured, I never again pointed the B-B gun anywhere close to the direction of a Mockingbird.

So, was my Dad negligent to let the issue pass?  Or did he, indeed, let it pass? Everyone in the backyard those years ago knew I had crossed the line. And, there was no doubt as to who was in charge or who had the authority. Yet, in exercising that authority, my Father chose to allow grace to have the last word. I did not feel at all like I had somehow escaped guilt, or got away with something! What I did know was that my Dad loved me, had caught me red-handed, that I did not get what I deserved, and that he allowed grace to be the teacher.

It can be tempting to think that lasting lessons come from lectures, the volume of a voice, punishments, or criticism; and I say, “not always.” John’s Gospel defends my position. In chapter 18, John joins Matthew and Mark in describing Peter’s denial of even knowing Jesus. Then, in chapter 21, John explains that our resurrected Savior sought out Peter, and reinstated relationship with the humiliated disciple, by three times asking, “Do you love me?”  Jesus does not scold Peter, or even mention the betrayal. Yet, does anyone believe Peter was thinking “he had escaped anything, or that Jesus was negligent or too easy on his guilty friend?

Certainly, sin needs to be directly and courageously confronted, for the sake of the sinner. Sometimes, though, that confrontation can take the form of grace. In the right circumstances, the decision to forgive, not to lecture, not to have the last word, is a most powerful teacher, and relationships can be protected or reinstated.

 

Jim Evans, Ph.D., MHA
Executive Director & Staff Counselor
Community Christian Counseling