Friday, April 15, 2011

The Grace Scandal: No Right to Be Ungracious

Matthew 18:21-35 contains the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant that was in response to Peter's question, "How many times shall I forgive my brother?" A servant in this parable was forgiven of a tremendous debt he owed his master only to turn around and have an argument with another servant who owed him very little. When the master heard about this he became angry with the servant and had him thrown in prison until he could pay back what he owed.

In The Grace Scandal:  Grace Abuse I said that we are not meant to keep a count of peoples' sins against us. Here is why:

Our debt to God far outweighs the debt any man can owe us; and God forgave us of it all.

What if you've been abused mentally, emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually?

You still need to give grace.

Our actions toward others should always reflect the grace that we've been given. Not one of us is worthy before God without His grace. So we do not have the right to be ungracious.

What about people who take advantage of you?

It's not about playing dumb to peoples' actions but not allowing their influence in your life. If you know a person is abusive than that person needs to have limited access into your life. You have been given a brain so respond with intelligence and act with grace. Honestly, what rights do you really have? If your life is lived in Christ what can people rob you of here?

Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

That is one of the toughest and pointed statements about forgiveness I believe in Scripture. It clearly says that my forgiveness depends on if I'm forgiving.

That servant should have been very generous toward his friends. He should have forgiven every single debt that his fellow servants owed him. This is a major fault within the church where we received our righteousness from God and so think, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that we are better than the sinners around us. We don't have a special place in God's eyes that isn't offered to every person.

So in our search sometimes to find fault with others so we can feel better about our own faults we become angry and bitter towards those who have hurt us. It's easy to forgive someone of something insignificant; but those who leave wounds that cut deep are rarely easily forgiven. The forgiveness we're meant to show is toward all.

Matthew 5:43-48
You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons 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 the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Kim Phuc Story (pronounced "fook") is an amazing story about forgiveness. You may not remember her name but you probably have seen this picture of her:

She was 9 years old when her small village had a napalm bomb dropped on it during the Vietnam War. This picture shows her running down the street naked because the clothes she was wearing had burned off. She had to have 17 different operations. She was angry and bitter towards those who caused her such suffering. She envied those who were "normal".

At age 19 she became a Christian. When she read the words "Love your enemies" she didn't know how. It didn't happen over night. She eventually learned to count her blessings instead of thinking negative thoughts: 

"Why did I get the scars?", "Why did I get burned in the fire?", I thought, "Kim your face and your hands are fine; and your feet weren't burned! You were able to run out of that fire and live!"
Kim went through hellacious pain and agony and carries quite literally the scars of her past. She could easily use them to remind her of the evil of those that did this to her. But instead those scars remind her that her freedom comes when she forgives.

Don't hold a grudge.
Don't be bitter.
Don't live in anger.

Don't let the sins of others be the thing that prevents freedom and grace in your life. You must show grace because you've been shown grace. You have no right not to.

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