by Holly Swafford
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
I Peter 4:10
Thinking about grace, I was reminded of a story I once read by Susan Warner about a little girl who found herself under the care of a ruthless, tight-fisted guardian. She grew bitter against her though she knew she must forgive to be forgiven by God. The young girl sought the counsel of her close friend and spiritual mentor who advised her with these wise words, “Mind your own doings, my child, and you will not be half so disposed to quarrel with those of other people.”
So often we are like that little girl and find ourselves upset by the conduct of others, when we should be concerned about our own. We are all human and have our own shortcomings. No one is less capable of making mistakes. Yet I have found that it is easy at times to fall short in having grace for others.
If we could only stop while we are feeling impatient with others and recognize that we are imperfect individuals as well. And we have had the grace of a perfect God shown to us. He who had the right to judge us for what we had done and turn away, instead laid down His life so that we could be saved “by grace.”
I have often been convicted by the words of Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India, who expounded on this topic in her poem “If”,
“If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting “Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received?” then I know nothing of Calvary love.”
This Calvary Love that Amy Carmichael speaks so admiringly of is the love that Christ displayed on the cross. It was the saving love that selflessly laid aside all for an undeserving, vile world. It was the love Christ displayed walking through the earth, eating with publicans, healing the blind and lame, and saving sinners. It was the love that flowed from Calvary to a sin-cursed world that would continually despise and reject Him. Yet He bore our sin to the cross for love’s sake. This is grace in its fullest, freest form.
One instance in the Bible that has always confounded my human comprehension of grace is that of David and Absalom. Although Absalom had treated David as no son should ever treat his father, attempting to steal his throne and take his very life, David wept upon hearing of his death and cried, “Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33). David’s love for his son was willing to show him grace no matter what he had done.
I wonder if David couldn’t help but think of the ways God had shown him grace. The story of David’s sin with Bathsheba was recorded only a few chapters prior to the account of Absalom. David had stooped low to kill a man and take his wife. Yet in his shame upon being approached by Nathan the prophet, David was able to cast himself upon the graces of a forgiving God and cry, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:1).
And God did just that. David was forced to pay the consequences for his actions but God gave him a clean slate. Grace like that is immensely hard for us as people. In fact, I think a lot of us today sometimes still let David’s sin with Bathsheba hang over his head. But God forgave him, and he was able to move on! Aren’t we human too and make mistakes? And God forgives us as well.
My thought for today could be summarized by the prayer expressed in this poem:
Lord, give us grace to live each day As thou wouldst bid us love. Without the passions that so bind And grip our hearts with cords of pain— The passions that induce the sin that self impells: The strife and envy; pride, ill will. By Thy grace and holy power From our hearts this bondage cast; And give us grace to love, As freely Thou hast given us. As freely we receive to give, For others then, in love and grace each day to live.
I realize that I have only scratched the surface of the depths of true grace. But I hope all who read this will think again of the abundant grace poured out on us from Christ. God is willing to forgive the greatest and smallest of our offenses.
Let us freely give to others the grace God so freely extends to us. Let us look back to the sacrifice of grace of our Savior on the cross, and be moved to let that same grace flow through our lives and into the lives of others.