As much as I’ve experienced grace, I’m still a toddler when it comes to extending it.
I believe forgiveness and extending grace are absolutely commanded and expected by Jesus. I don’t believe, however, that forgiveness and grace are an excuse to overlook wrongs done. Civil and societal laws are necessary for groups to function (somewhat) peaceably and were upheld by Jesus. When a law is broken or wrong done, we can expect justice and often punishment to the offending party. These are foundational aspects of our belief system and societal expectations.
However, what happens the next day (and month) after justice and retribution are served? What is the evolutionary process of relationships post-conviction? What does grace look like in the messy business of our often broken lives?
Jesus and grace
We see Jesus coming down hard on spiritual leaders, but seemingly soft on sinful individuals. He slammed those who brought the adulteress to Him, yet extended forgiveness and hope to the scandalized woman. He called the elders a brood of vipers, yet implored His Father to forgive the hated Romans who nailed Him at the cross. Where was His grace for the Jewish leaders?
Coming closer to home, how do I respond to someone who has preyed on and hurt others, yet is still a broken sinner? What does grace look like in my heart and life when someone I know is part of a heinous breach of confidence? If I’m not the authority or power to enact justice – or justice has been served – how am I to respond to this person? Do I avoid them…judge them…shun them…gossip about them? How is grace redemptive in such situations?
Forgiveness may be a choice, but grace, I believe, is an action.
It looks for the inherent goodness – the resident God-ness – that is surely present in each of His creations. At times grace calls to accountability, convicts and exhorts. In federation with justice, grace might need to have hard conversations or mete out punishment. Sometimes grace sits in the middle of the messiness and holds a hand in solidarity with brokenness. Occasionally grace may remain the only friend of a transgressor – not excusing or dismissing – but because we all need compassion even when we deserve none.
Grace isn’t always easy,
but it always IS.
Ann Halim is editor of eWeekend newsletter for the College View Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. Republished with permission.