“Grace”

Fellowship of the Spirit
October 19, 2016

Grace

How many times have you woke up in the morning, got ready for work and walked out the door with an optimistic attitude? “Today will be a good day because ‘this is the day the Lord has made,’ and I am going to make the most of it.” Out you go, with a smile on your face.

Then, half way on your way to work, some jerk cuts you off in traffic and you see your life flash before your eyes (or maybe even a vivid fantasy of ramming him from behind—if only you drove a Hummer!). Suddenly, your positive outlook has, well, disappeared. You arrive at work and your coworkers greet you with a good morning. You force a polite smile and keep walking—you are in no mood.

Now, maybe that has or has not happened to you. But I can guarantee most of us have had a decent start to our day, only to have some joker do something rude, thoughtless thing to make our day take a turn for the worse. Not that they meant to. Or maybe they did. Maybe that guy who cut you off on the freeway or the mom who let her kids nearly knock you into the next checkstand without a second glance has had a rotten day, too. We just never know, do we?

The Bible lays out some very simple, yet difficult, standards for us to live by: Be kind to one another; don’t lie; don’t steal; don’t kill or hate. Jesus laid it out simply, and then humanity made it difficult. I think the whole “turn the other cheek” motto, for instance, has become a bit over-used by people who like to “slap” people in the first place. But here it is: God does not ask us to give any more grace than we have been given. No one likes to think about that. Our first response usually goes something like, “I am not God so I can’t do that.” While that may be true, Jesus still said it. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32.

This is not a guilt trip. This is a reality check. Because how we treat one another matters. In the end, God will not say, “Good job at not cussing when you stubbed your toe,” or “Way to go on making it to church every single Sunday.” Yes, those can be good things, no doubt. However, in doing those things let us not neglect the “weightier matters” of the law (Matthew 23:23).

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

Matthew 25:34-40

When I was younger, I volunteered for a nursing home. There was a woman there, let us call her Faye. Faye was not only elderly and sick, but incredibly angry at the world. Every other Sunday for several months, I would greet Faye, along with the rest of my little church group, and she would tell me the same thing. “I HATE you. And I know you hate me. So quit trying to pretend like you actually care!” Now, I certainly did not have to keep coming back to get yelled at. Faye was not doing me any favors and I went out of my way every other Sunday to greet her. Something inside of me (Something being the Holy Spirit, I am sure) always told me to keep trying. It was hard. I am a people person and when people don’t like me, it bothers me.

But I kept coming back, again and again, until one Sunday, with tears in her eyes, Faye came to me and said, “I love you! Thank you for loving me.” Talk about a “wow” moment. I was not expecting that. Her whole face had changed and she looked so much more peaceful and content.

I am not saying this to pat myself on the back. All I did was remain obedient and I am sure there were other factors and other obedient people involved. Nevertheless, Faye was a changed woman and not too long after that, she passed away, peaceful and knowing the love of Jesus.

On the other side of the same coin, I have failed miserably: Losing my temper in traffic, raising my voice to my four year old son because why on earth would he put an entire roll of toilet paper in the toilet (roll and all)?

Excuses are easy: they did it first; my life is hard; my heart is hurting. Indeed, those things may be true. They may deserve the chewing out they got for screwing up your order because you absolutely abhor onions. It is not any easy thing to ask someone to be kind anyway. But I think Jesus makes it a little easier by being there along with you the entire way. The next time your day seems to be going in a bad direction, stop, take the time to go out of your way and do something kind for another person. I promise you, your life will never be the same.

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