Two Ways We Mishandle Grace

Cookie Cawthon

Grace. The expression of God’s goodness to us, an undeserving people.

It’s a sunset. It’s chocolate and mashed potatoes. It’s an A on the test you forgot to study for. It’s your crabbiness met with kindness. It’s a game-changing pass caught in the end zone. It’s also a man beaten bloody on a cross to die my death. And yours. It’s forgiveness. A second chance. And a third. And a tenth. It’s love.

Grace is every good thing we have no right to. It’s the spiritual matter that keeps us humbly aware of how generous God is.

What do we do with this grace?

God is the source of all grace, and we are to be its recipients and its distributors. We get it and we give it. However, it can be difficult to strike the right balance between the two.

When we refuse to receive grace, we elevate our sin and minimize God.

Because God’s goodness is beyond our human heart’s ability to grasp, we can understandably get stuck on how undeserving we are. We can feel muddied by our sin and call ourselves unworthy. But our focus is wrong. When we make much of our own yuck, we’re saying, “The bad in me is greater than the goodness of God.” We crown sin king of our lives and reject the goodness God offers us through Himself and others. This looks similar to Peter’s refusal to allow Jesus to wash his feet in John 13:1-11. It’s a twisted form of pride that communicates a small view of God. Here’s the thing though, our unworthiness is what makes grace…grace.

When we refuse to extend grace, we elevate our “goodness” and minimize God’s sacrifice.

On the flipside, sometimes it’s easier to give ourselves grace, knowing our own desire to do good even when we fail, and we find it difficult to extend grace to others. We are galled by their errors and disappointed by their weakness. We are offended for God, and we’ll not allow them to feel his goodness through us. We’ll snub to ensure they feel the consequences of their sin. We worry that by extending God’s goodness to “sinners” we may let them off the hook. But Jesus extended God’s goodness by dying for them; He asks far less of us when He asks us to show them his love. When we withhold grace, we’re like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14, essentially saying, “I’m glad I’m not as wicked as you.” It’s called self-righteousness. We are right when we assess others as unworthy, but their unworthiness is what makes grace…grace.

We are all undeserving, not one more or less than the other. We receive grace from a tender, holy God and then we hold our hands open that others may experience it through us. It’s a two-way street that finds its origin at the foot of a dusty cross – a playing field of grace with no memory and no favorites.

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