Recently, I have been dealing with a difficult person in a difficult situation. They have been lying to me and others, stealing, doing hurtful things, and in many ways, they are just being nasty. As a Christian, what is my response? Even if they would listen to me, is there anything I could say or do that can make a difference? Part of me wants to retaliate and speak the truth, no matter how hurtful it is, so that maybe they will see the error of their ways. Part of me never wants to see them again and would be fine with that. Part of me prays for them because of the situation they are in, even if a consequence of their own actions. How much kindness do you show to people who abuse kindness? You will find out.
A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. Proverbs 21:2
Years ago, we went door to door and often asked people several questions including why they thought God should allow them into heaven. The most common answer from people who claimed to be Christian and even those who did not was that “I’m a pretty good person (compared to murderers, child abusers, thieves, Hitler, etc).” Basically, in their own eyes, everyone thinks they are pretty good when compared to ‘most’ everyone else…my works are good enough to get me to heaven. How about you? At times, we may all find ourselves comparing our good deeds to others and ranking others as good or bad, depending on what sin they have committed. Every once in a while in our survey, someone would mention that only God’s grace shown in Christ allowed them to go to heaven. How often do I reflect on God’s grace allowing me to be His child now, to experience his grace and love now, to share that with others now, and to one day fully know that grace in Heaven? When I do, it humbles me to the core.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
The longer you are a Christian, hopefully, the more sensitive you become to sin in your life and in those around you. The Holy Spirit refines you, so that your heart becomes more like that of Christ. Maybe not perfect, but ever closer. Doing so could lead us to become more judgmental of others who are not ‘as good as us’, and bring us to a place where we are a modern day Pharisee. Or, it could bring us to an awareness of how much greater God’s grace is than we once thought, humbling us once again by undeserved grace. The more we become like Christ, the more we are able to show that same grace to others. And I often ask myself ‘how am I doing?’
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:8-10
Through this life, we will all encounter people who require extra grace from us. They may be the person who’s personality just rubs you the wrong way, or even someone who has done or said hurtful things toward you or others. I truly think these EGR (Extra Grace Required) folks not only help us grow as Christians, but also show us the true nature of our own hearts. When I don’t have the patience to listen to someone who spends 90% of the time rambling and 10% getting to the point, I see that I need to grow just as much as they do. Sometimes after a difficult encounter, I reflect and wonder if I could have handled it better. Next time I will. Next time, God willing, I will have an extra measure of grace and forgiveness to show to others, even if they don’t deserve it. Because the grace and forgiveness he has already shown me is definitely undeserved.
Strength and Courage in Christ,