I have been really struggling lately with grace and forgiveness and second chances. I say I want to show grace all the time, but I totally know that I don’t. I think I want to be able to forgive everyone, but my heart is stingy and my fists are clenched and I totally know that I don’t. And I proclaim that I believe in second chances, but what about third and fourth and fifth chances, and what about when the person isn’t even trying to live out a second chance; do I have to act like he is and treat him as if?
Should everyone be shown grace no matter what? That’s the question I’m mulling around.
A friend said to me, “Remember who Jesus hung around with? The bad guys. The tax collectors, the prostitutes…”
Yes, that’s true. But it occurred to me that, for instance, Zacchaeus the tax collector completely repented upon meeting Jesus, and promised to pay everyone he had cheated back four times the amount. Jesus didn’t just hang out with him and expect him to keep doing all those wrong things he was doing (Luke 19:1-10). In other words, there does not seem to be grace no matter what.
Or the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). Jesus first pointed out to those about to stone her to be very careful to examine their own lives first with the very pointed statement, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” He then went on to tell her that he did not condemn her (grace upon grace) but then sent her off with this, “Go and sin no more.” So clearly he recognizes sin. Clearly sin exists. Clearly he doesn’t want us to continue in it. In other words, there does not seem to be grace no matter what.
Or even the two thieves that accompanied Christ to the cross (Luke 23:32-43). One thief mocked him, daring him to save himself and get himself down. But the other thief showed his faith by asking Jesus to remember him in his Kingdom, to which Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” He said that to only the one who demonstrated faith and repentance; he did not promise the Kingdom to both thieves. In other words, there does not seem to be grace no matter what.
So where does this all leave me?
When someone who has hurt me repeatedly without ever sincerely apologizing continues hurting me?
When someone is allowed to lead in Christian circles who is currently taking part in a sinful lifestyle?
When someone has done something that the Bible says is wrong and lies about it but I know it’s being lied about?
It leaves me with the truth that I am still called to “forgive as the Lord has forgiven me” no matter how many times I’m hurt. It leaves me not having to stay in relationship with the person who keeps hurting me. It leaves me showing kindness to everyone. It leaves me praying for those who are causing pain to themselves and to others. It leaves me trying to show grace to everyone all the time in small ways with the love that the Spirit has placed inside of me. But most of all, it leaves me glad to not be God. Because he’s the only One who can do all of this perfectly, and there’s grace for me when I mess it all up.
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Wow….grace and truth in balance! Thank you Elizabeth!
I deal with this scenario daily in parenting my child who acts out of her trauma. I ask the Lord everyday to show me when to show grace and when a consequence needs to be given. Both actions are loving, but which will lead her more quickly along the path of healing? So glad we have a personal Savior to show us how to navigate these waters.
I have searched and searched for years for the answer to the question you pose above. Only in recent months have I seen various responses from different sources all saying the same thing you say in today’s message to us. I find it very affirming that I am called to forgive, but not to subject myself to reconciliation with someone who is unrepentant. Grace for all, yes, but I don’t have to blindly trust.
As I wrote you in an email the other day, you know I struggle with this too. And you state truth in the examples you presented. Isn’t there also a passage where Jesus sends his disciples out on their own and told them if anyone won’t receive you, shake the dust off your feet (from the offending town), and be on your way…? That, plus several other verses seem to suggest grace is key…forgiveness is a must…but reconciliation without repentance, not so much! I believe we should hold onto our God-given dignity, not pride, dignity, and not keep beating ourselves up with unnecessary guilt…God bless! Jan
Dr. R.T. Kendall states in his book on Total Forgiveness that “forgiveness is a life sentence”…how true I have found….I think Jan makes a good point of “dusting your feet off”….I, too, have been in that place that I wanted to be a part of a solution but my frustration was going to get the best of me if I didn’t dust my feet off…
I have found setting healthly boundaries, learning to teach other people how to treat me is key…and if true repentance comes and only time tells….I still need to keep my heart guarded but remain open and in step with His Spirit… Gal 5:25 Only Jesus knows the hearts of men…John 2:24 states He did not entrust Himself to man….
Right now, after ten years, God has lead me back to the place of dusting my feet off….I am now in position to extend “grace” the same grace that was extended to me by the Cross….John 1:14…Jesus, the One and Only full of grace and truth…..
Blessings in Christ…..
When Jesus told the accusers “Let whoever is without sin …”, he was confronting them with their specific failings under the Old Testament law they were using to accuse the woman. If a man and woman are caught in adultery, they are both to be stoned to death — so where’s the man? Are they concealing his identity? That means they’re conspiring in insufficient or false testimony, which violates several OT statutes. Jesus therefore knows that they all are in sin in the specific matter of their testimony. His statement is designed to force the men to see that he understands their status in this matter and to prevent an unjust sentencing.
But the New Testament doctrine of grace never throws out the responsibility of God’s family to live as God expects. Jesus tells us as he departs that we are to make disciples, teaching them to do everything he (God) has taught us. New Testament teaching and Jesus’ own teaching demonstrates how to confront those who continue in sin. This teaching echoes the Old Testament teaching which makes it a sin to remain angry instead of confronting and correcting a member of God’s family who lives in sin (Leviticus 19:17, Deuteronomy 12:17-18). It is wrong for us to “incur sin” by being angry — that is to say, as Jesus teaches, we must forgive — but we “may reprove (our) neighbor” — although for serious offenses the testimony of multiple witnesses would be expected.
The NT allows that the church may expel some for a period because they are unrepentant. This would seem to be a strong parallel to those who would shut their hearts to unrepentant persons in their lives. Although continued anger is not permitted, as part of God’s family the church, if you gain agreement from others in the body, you are free to shut unrepentant persons from the communion of your life so they may experience the consequences of their decisions.
That’s how I would read the texts.