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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