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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Are We Extending Too Much Grace?

I enjoy being on the receiving end of grace.* If someone is nice to me, if they’re willing to overlook one of my many bumblings, if they pray for me, and if they genuinely care … without any personal interest in doing so, then they’ve shown me grace.

I also like to give grace—being kind when the other person really doesn’t deserve it. Acting like a Christian. (I wrote a whole post about the biblical meaning of grace. You can access it here.)

Grace is a lovely thing. It’s a reflection of what Jesus did on the cross for us. He didn’t have to pay for our sin. He loved us, and because of that, He offered Himself. Grace is reflecting Christ. Grace is one of the most Christian things we can do.

But, I wonder if we sometimes extend too much grace. Let me explain what I mean with a few examples.**

Joey grew up in a Christian home and in church. He always had an attitude, and his parents despaired. Why was Joey so against everything they’d brought him up to believe? He was churlish and nasty. Before his eighteenth birthday, he moved out of the house and lived with some other guys. By twenty-one, he was out of work, doing drugs, and living in sin. All this time, his parents kept in contact and showed him love and care. They paid his part of the rent, kept his credit cards paid off, and gave him cash to live on. His parents gave Joey too much grace.

Francesca was in a bad marriage. She knew it before she eloped, but she couldn’t help herself. He was so handsome, and she was overwhelmed with love … or besotted with the idea of having him; she wasn’t sure which. Francesca let him talk her into a hasty, justice of the peace marriage—not the wedding she dreamed of—and he promised her a beautiful life. She knew he was lying, but she loved him. The abuse started on their “honeymoon.” She had no idea anyone could be capable of such cruelty. The words he said, the beatings …. Francesca didn’t tell a soul. She wanted to cover up for him, she wanted to hide her own bad choices. One day, he went too far, and Francesca ended up on the floor, bleeding to death. She gave her husband too much grace.

Mr. Johnson, the bookstore proprietor, often cheated Susie. She was certain of it. Every time she made a purchase, she’d get home, count the change, and come up short. It wasn’t a lot of money—a dollar here, fifty cents there. She figured Mr. Johnson knew how much he could cheat on each order so that it wouldn’t be missed. But, about the fourth time, Susie got wise. Being a Christian, she thought it would be best not to make waves. After all, aren’t Christians supposed to forgive and bear the hurt? She never confronted or reported Mr. Johnson, and Susie was sure he kept on stealing. She gave him too much grace.

Grace can enable, when it should strengthen by withholding.

Grace can suffer abuse, when the abuser should be reported.

Grace can cover theft and other sins, when those sins are crimes.

But, you might be thinking, doesn’t the Bible say:
  • If thy brother trespass against thee, forgive him? Yes. Look at the rest of the passage: Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him (Luke 17:3-4). Notice both rebuke and repentance.
  • Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ? Yes. And, three verses later, it says, For every man shall bear his own burden (Galatians 6:2, 5).

Read these verses that apply to the situations we mentioned earlier:
  • Joey is living for his own pleasures and desires. He has rejected his parents’ teachings, God’s directions and standard of morality. Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them (Romans 1:29-30, 32). His parents clearly should not be paying his bills. This enables him to continue in his sinful lifestyle. He doesn’t even have to take responsibility for his personal finances. His parents should, though, remain in contact with him and assure him of their love.
  • Francesca’s husband beat her. He ignored the biblical teaching, Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil (1 Peter 3:7, 11-12). It is against the law for someone to physically and mentally abuse another. Francesca should have gone to the authorities the first time it happened. If it happened again, she should have left the home and reported him the second time. It might have saved her life.
  • Mr. Johnson is a thief. He ignores one of the Ten Commandments, which is repeated several times in the Bible. Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another (Leviticus 19:11). He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor (Proverbs 28:8). Susie should report him to the authorities. He should not be free to cheat people.

Should we extend grace and be kind? Yes, of course.

Should we be wise and discerning? Yes, that too.

Be ye kind and remember that this verse is also in the Bible: When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge (Ephesians 4:32, Proverbs 21:11).

Let’s be discerning and kind. Let’s extend both grace and justice. 

* For the biblical meaning of grace, I wrote a post you can access here.
** These are completely fictitious stories.

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