"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9
Throughout the Word of God, we see the outpouring of God's wonderful grace, His undeserved mercy and love offered to a human race in open rebellion against Him. We see that grace extended most perfectly through the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ, unto all who believe upon and live in Him. Yet though we see His grace throughout His Word, we still understand so little of it. We live in so little of it, and we exercise it even less.
I have been walking with Him for nearly 40 years now, and though my life in Him is due only to His grace, I even now know so little of its wonder and power. So little of His amazing grace. Something I am learning though is that the two ways we can most learn of and experience His grace is first by our receiving it in every area and level of our lives. Most of us are willing to at least begin to do this, though too often we live beneath its fullness. The second means is far less known and practiced. We learn of His great grace when we are willing to extend it to others. Especially those who have wounded, offended, and deeply hurt us.
In the book, "The Insanity Of God," the writer tells of a Russian pastor imprisoned for his faith and brutally tortured because of it. One of the things a particular prison guard did each day was to spread his own excrement on the bread the man received for his breakfast. This went on for months. Though his jailers intended to kill him, after a number of years the man was miraculously released. He immediately returned to the fellowship of his church. While resuming his role as its pastor, an elderly woman, also a believer, asked him to help secure medicine for her diabetic son. As a follower of Christ, she was forbidden any kind of medical help and medicine. Her son was now blind, and near death. Even so, the man was able to procure some medication for the woman and took it to her small apartment. When he arrived, she asked him to come and pray for her son. As he went to the helpless man in the bed, he saw it was the same prison guard who had spread human waste on his bread every morning for nine months. One can only imagine what the human response to that would be. Yet this believer, confronted with one who had tormented him for so long, breathed this prayer, "Oh Lord, do not let me fail You now." The author then writes, "The pastor granted his former tormentor forgiveness in his own heart, helped the mother to administer the medicine to relieve the man's pain, prayed for her son, then returned home with a new and deeper understanding of God's grace. He was overwhelmed by God's grace."
Somehow, we find it much easier to receive His grace for ourselves, even when we know we're unworthy of it. We find it not easy at all to extend it to those who are equally undeserving. Especially when they have wounded and hurt us deeply. It is easier to hold onto the hurt, and the anger, resentment, even hatred that goes with it. And in our doing that, we rob ourselves of the wonder of knowing His grace, living in it's fullness, and knowing the freedom that it brings. I think it is only when we extend His grace to one, or ones who in no way deserve it, that we begin to experience and live in its beauty. When that Russian pastor extended the grace of His forgiveness and mercy to his torturer, the writer says that it radically changed him and the lives of all his family members. We learn most about His grace when we freely give it...even to those who have caused the most grievous wounds to our lives. To what degree have you and I learned of this kind of grace? To what degree are we withholding it from someone, perhaps many "someone's" in our lives?
Grace. We may know the word. We may know its meaning. Do we know its reality? Have we received it in full? Are we extending it in full? We may sing "Amazing Grace," but do we live it? Do we give it? If we know the joy of His forgiving grace, do we know the joy of forgiving another by His grace? We all have "tormentors" of some type in our lives. When we "see" them, whether in the flesh, or in our memories, what will we do? Give way to a seething, vengeful anger, or do we simply breathe the prayer of the pastor, "Oh Lord, do not let me fail You now?" His grace transforms. To what degree has it transformed you and me?