I never cease to be amazed at the countless ways God uses to teach me about his grace and the ways I should reflect it. For the past few months he has used a Bible study and the relocation of my family to another state to teach me more about grace and how truly essential it is in every aspect of our daily lives. So what is this grace?
Grace has been defined as "God's unmerited favor" or "getting what we don't deserve." The clearest demonstration of God's grace is our salvation through his Son Jesus, who willingly died on the cross for our sins. We didn't deserve the sacrifice of God's only Son as atonement for our sins, but "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16, NIV).
As Christians who have received the gift of salvation our lives should reflect the grace of God. When people bring out the worst in us instead of God's best, how can we bear witness to his grace rather than give in to our human inclination to lash out against that person who makes us crazy?
Pray for those who wrong, mistreat, or aggravate you. "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even then tax collectors doing that? Be perfect, therefore, even as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:43-46, 48). I will be the first to admit that loving someone who irritates or offends me is difficult. But I have learned that saying a simple prayer for them in the heat of the moment quickly turns my attention to God and draws him into my dilemma. When I do that I am less likely to respond in haste or with anger.
Find some reason to give thanks! "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). You don't have to be thankful for the conflict in which you find yourself but you can certainly thank God that he is in it with you! Perhaps that difficult person has issues you don't have -- give thanks!
Remember that the conflict won't last forever. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). That wayward teenager will eventually grow into a responsible adult. That annoying coworker will not go home with you at the end of your shift (unless you choose to take her there by "talking shop" with your significant other). When I struggle with difficult relationships it helps me to remember that I am not the person I used to be. By seeing the positive changes God has made in me I know that there is indeed hope for that other person whose behavior is of concern to me. It also helps to remember that God is God and I am not. There are certain things only he can do!
Love and forgive others as God has loved and forgiven you. Loving and forgiving others are not options. They are commands from Jesus himself. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15). Love and forgiveness go hand-in-hand. Always have, always will. It is only when we meditate on the love and forgiveness Christ demonstrated on the cross that we are able to extend them to others.
Here's the bottom line: Our lives depend on God's grace. So do the lives of those who at times make us crazy. How can they know God's grace if our lives aren't a living testimony? As much as we may love our families, God loves them more. As difficult as some folks may be, God expects us to love and forgive them because that is what he has done for us. Pick your battles, pray without ceasing, choose joy! Love will always cover a multitude of sins and at the end of the day, God will still be God and you will still be his beloved child.
Copyright © 2014 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved. www.deedeewike.com
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