After 9 months of living in Thailand, I feel like the Lord has been showing me so many things about life, ministry, and trying to change realities. Recently, the Lord has really challenged my thinking on grace. This post is the first in a three-part series about extending grace to others.
Aghh, you say. “I know about grace. I know it’s God’s ‘unmerited favor.’”
Sure. I know about that too. Eph. 2:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It’s also in Rom. 5:8, and Col. 1:21-22.
This is the grace that God gives to us, but the Lord has been showing me so much about releasing that same grace to others.
God loves us. Not only does He love us, it’s his very nature. He is love. In this we have received unmerited favor despite so many of our own shortcomings. The point of his grace is restored relationship. We still have relationship with Him, founded in love, because of grace. So naturally I maintain relationships with others because of grace I extend to them. Most of the time, that’s unmerited as well.
I think it’s different than just loving someone, despite his or her flaws. Grace is always mentioned as something that is extended or given. Have you ever noticed how Paul and Peter extend grace at the beginning of their letters in the NT? It’s in almost every one of their introductions. They say, “Grace and peace to you…” Now I’ve had my Bible classes and I know this is formulaic. It’s a traditional greeting and normal way of sending out a letter, but I began to wonder…
Paul… the Pharisee of all Pharisees, the infamous persecutor of the original church and believers… blinded on the road to Damascus and called forth to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles despite all of these issues is the sender of these letters. He understood Grace in such a unique way, and so I wonder what he felt and hoped to convey in what was a traditional greeting. Perhaps it was more like, “Grace and peace to you. May you know the extreme, radical, grace I know! May I share, extend, and give grace to you? May I freely give what I’ve freely received? Grace to you.”
It’s an extension.
I know when I pass somebody I know, I usually say, “Hey, How are you?” It’s our traditional, formulaic greeting. But sometimes… It’s different. We know when somebody asks it differently, “Hey! How are you? … Really?” I imagine that Paul, a recipient of so much grace himself, meant this in a very genuine way as he expressed greetings to open his letters. It extended grace before he got into anything else, and he did it on purpose.
Grace was given to us and we’re expected to be like our heavenly Father as we imitate him in extending grace. It’s necessary for deep, meaningful, trusting relationships. It’s necessary to operate as a unit, as a body of believers.
(*This is Part 1 of a blog series. Part 2: Be Strong In It and Part 3: It Looks Like This: 7 Practical Extensions will be posted soon.)