I do a great deal of thinking about Grace. Probably because I have basked in its beauty, felt relief through its comfort, and experienced its power so much in my life. Although at one time I think I could have been a poster child for the Pharisees, knowing all the right things to say and do, through various events in my life I have tasted the sweetness of grace and I have been changed.
I have learned when a person’s behavior appears to be inconsistent with what I know about their life from the outside looking in, then I am mandated to give grace without information. I must be willing to give grace without forcing them to show their soul. It’s all about the mandate: to give grace with or without information.
I have also known absence of grace. I have felt accusations and judgment from those who don’t know the situation and yet decide to write my story in their minds where it quickly becomes their reality. In the cast of characters I am labeled as either villain or vain. I don’t stand a chance. My inner voice shouts out at the accusers daring them to cast the first stone…and then I remember the grace mandate.
I want to scream against the mandate “It’s not fair! They don’t deserve grace because they don’t give it!” But my screams are met by a God who slowly and kindly reveals that this is what it’s all about. Grace for Pharisees, grace for sinners – no respecter of persons is grace.
Philip Yancey, an author who devoted an entire book to grace says this: “As I studied Jesus’ life, the notion of grace kept hitting me in the face. All his stories made the wrong person the hero: the prodigal son not the responsible older brother, Lazarus not the rich man, the good Samaritan not the Jewish rabbi. And I began to see grace as one of the great, often untapped, powers of the universe that God has asked us to set loose. Human society runs by Ungrace, ranking people, holding them accountable, insisting on reciprocity and fairness. Grace is, by definition, unfair…”From PhilipYancey.com
And this is truth – Despite being surrounded by Ungrace, we are called to give Grace. It’s the Grace Mandate.
“I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly.”
― Madeleine L’Engle