A couple of weeks ago, I started some thoughts on grace. I talked about not just understanding grace but experiencing and practicing grace in the context of our lives.
One of the things I love about Victory is the willingness of many of you to show grace to many who come through our doors. Showing grace usually comes from a heart that has experienced grace ourselves.
A few weeks ago, I used a personal illustration of how I am keenly aware of the responsibility to be real in my life, especially as a pastor, since Janet and my lives are on display 24/7. Sometimes, because of those responsibilities, it is hard to be truly honest about our own struggles. After sharing this with several, you encouraged both of us with your own challenges of being honest and authentic, and our mutual desire to reflect Jesus Christ in our lives.
Vulnerability is being honest about our struggles. It’s more specific than authenticity. You can be authentic without being vulnerable.
My three children taught Janet and me how to extend grace and forgiveness. What I would say to them would be what I would want to tell you, our church. We’re brothers and sisters. We are a family. We accepted each other, gave each other wide allowances for failure and growth, and focused our family on grace; seeking to raise our children as God raises his children.
So, whether in our family or in our church, we should not be known for outrage towards people who need grace; we should be outraged by people who refuse to give grace. When Jesus walked this world, he knew the hurts of the people who were trying to hurt him and again and again showed them grace.
In Matthew 18 and the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, a servant receives grace from his master but then refuses to give it to a fellow servant. In teaching on that passage in the past, I missed an important element: when the other servants saw what their fellow servant had done, they were outraged. Within that community of people who had received grace from the master, the entire community was outraged when one person didn’t show it to another.
To understand the beauty of God’s grace requires me to recognize the ugliness of my own sin. That can be painful. I would much rather tell myself I’m not that bad. I’m convicted by Hebrews 12:15: “To see to it that no one misses the grace of God.” When people miss God’s grace, it creates this bitter root within the heart or this poisonous root within the community or relationship.
One of the most beautiful things I get to see as a pastor is how God’s grace redeems brokenness. It redeems pain. God never wastes what we go through. It’s such a privilege to see God take something very difficult and use it to teach people dependence on him, teach people compassion, teach people gratitude that is not based on their circumstances or their possessions. God’s grace brings good out of the worst things.