Dan over at “Learning to Be Full of Grace and Truth” wrote a really good piece on forgiveness, faith, and grace called, “Short Man Meets Big Grace.” Read it, it’s awesome.
I’ve been involved in some ongoing discussions on forgiveness in bloggerville, on facebook, about the intertoobz, that have sometimes caused my heart to sink. Forgiveness is something I would call a tenet of Christian faith, the basis from which all else flows, so it’s kind of a critical piece to understand. It’s also a concept that is somewhat unique to Christianity, the idea of unmerited favor. We are saved because of who Jesus Christ is, not because of who we are. We can’t earn it. It’s unmerited.
I blog a lot about marriage and someone smart once said, “marriage is just one-act of forgiveness after another.” I think that’s very true, our ability to maintain a relationship and connection with another person is pretty dependent on our willingness to forgive them and look beyond their flaws. I think it works with God like that too, the more grace and mercy we can extend to others, the closer we come to receiving all the grace and mercy He wants to extend to us.
I use to be a hard-hearted, dark, gothy little thing, that came from a world without much forgiveness, with very little grace, and I truly had no idea what mercy even was. Seriously, I’d never seen it demonstrated in the people world. In my family, people hold grudges for generations and everyone was very judgmental towards one another. My mother is a narcissist which really reinforced and implanted this idea. If you don’t fulfill the needs of a narcissist, they’ll either cast you out or proceed to annihilate you, at least emotionally. I grew up in a pretty hostile, unforgiving world. I did have Jesus Christ however, and He saved my life, a few times over.
I had some understanding of forgiveness, mercy, grace, but all in my head, not in my heart. My environment had never shown me what it even looked like. Culture didn’t show me either, we live in a somewhat dog eat dog world. There were a couple of times I saw something resembling mercy, grace, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was for many years.
It was my husband that actually taught me what grace and forgiveness really are, what they look and feel like in the real world. I had had one of those days when the kids were small, the house was torn apart, I’d bounced a couple of checks, dinner wasn’t made, my sister was back in jail. I could go on and on, but it was one of those days where 7 PM rolls around and you realize you haven’t even gotten dressed or brushed your hair. I was feeling like an epic failure at being a wife, a mother, an epic failure at life itself, and so the moment my husband walked in the door I unloaded on him. And after much arguing and yelling, he eventually just said that he had married me and that I could fail at everything and he would still love me.
That quick, I suddenly got it, grace, unmerited favor, forgiveness, and a willingness to slog through it all no matter what. Commitment to love. It softened my heart in an instant, it set me on a path of wanting to be pleasing, of desiring to do better, of wanting to be worthy of such dedication. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to.
Of course I loved my husband, but “love” is sort of a vague concept, having to do with feelings, with romance, with affection. At that time I stumbled upon the word for “love” in the KJV of the bible, “charity,” and I suddenly understood that while I may have loved my husband, I certainly wasn’t very charitable towards him. Charitable means, “apt to judge others leniently or favorably.” How do you judge others leniently or favorably? By forgiving them their flaws and perceiving them in a favorable light. Love and forgiveness are tightly entwined.
I also wasn’t very charitable towards myself. That’s the problem with harboring unforgiveness in your heart. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”– Matthew 7:2
Before that all began to click, before God pointed me in the right direction, I was constantly critical, blamed hubby for everything, obsessed over little things, and drove myself half crazy. I probably drove him crazy, too. He could never please me. I could never please me. God’s grace is amazing, God has poured His grace all over me, but what really lead me to a better understanding of what it all means, was just an ordinary man in the heat of the moment showing me some unmerited favor.
Grace, forgiveness, being charitable towards others has tremendous power, it is Jesus Christ’s power, and it changes outcomes, it changes lives. Cultivating an attitude of charity, where we ourselves are charitable towards others, is a reflection of the forgiveness and mercy of Jesus Christ. It is an opportunity for us to express our praise and gratitude for the Salvation and Redemption we ourselves have received.