Today’s devotion builds on the thoughts from Sunday’s Sermon – Week 3 of “Compelled – Living the Value of Visible Grace” (LISTEN HERE).
How many relationships in your life could have been saved by grace?
I’m not talking about relationships of individuals with their Savior, Jesus, but individuals that you no longer have a relationship with because grace was absent?
Let me take it one step further. How many relationships with people in church have been severed or never established because of the lack of grace?
Have you ever had a visitor come into your church who wasn’t a “seasoned church goer” who never came back? Maybe you don’t know. I have. It doesn’t take long for a guest to walk in and feel the glare of judgment or the eyes of compassion. It doesn’t take long for an individual to feel the warmth of a group or the chill that says, “I don’t belong here.”
There may be many factors, but underneath is grace or the absence of grace. Do we believe every person in the church and who walks through the doors of our church needs grace? Yes. “All have sinned.” That includes you and me.
Do we believe that everyone who walks through the door will hear about grace? As a pastor, I hope so!
Do we believe that everyone who walks through the door will experience and feel grace? I want them to. I pray you do too. However, if we are honest, “showing grace” can sometimes be lacking.
In fact, just think about yourself for a minute. If someone asks, “How are you doing?” Will you simply reply “fine” and move on? Or is there someone that you would feel comfortable opening up and saying, “I’m really struggling in my marriage”? Or, “I just found out my adult son is gay.” Or…you fill in the blank. What I notice, is that there is a subtle fear in church of really opening up about the sin that is affecting our life because we feel like we would be judged or made to feel “less than” because we had sinned or are dealing with sin.
A common concern of those outside the church is the judgment of those inside the church. I had a young lady say, “I don’t think I’m good enough to come to your church.” To which I replied, “If you only knew the stories and sins of everyone sitting in the pew.” (For the record, I didn’t not relate all I knew!) But this interaction has affected me to want every person who walks into the church to not just hear about grace BUT ALSO experience grace…not matter what their spiritual journey has been or not been.
So how do we do that better? Perhaps the opening words of Paul’s letter to Titus and many of his other letters gives us a hint because it is not just a formula to open a letter, it is the reality of his heart and how he views people.
Titus 1:4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
I get that not everyone who walks through the door is maybe not yet a “true son in our common faith”…but prayerfully that will come. But we can view all people who walk through the door, and all those that have been there a long time, as individuals to whom God wants to bring his grace and peace.
For those who are true sons and daughters in the common faith, can we not first see them as saints of God, one’s who “share in God’s grace” with us? Even saints still struggle with sin. The Apostle Paul did.
Romans 7:17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So here’s what grace does for relationships. It removes judgment and condemnation and instills love and forgiveness (more on that tomorrow). It is not surprised when people need grace, because everyone does, but rather is ready to communicate and show grace to forgive and overcome sin. Grace restores and strengthens relationships because it removes conditions to remain in that relationship. It shows favor, even if the other person does not deserve it. When we see each other through the lens of grace, we realize grace must be at the heart of our relationships.
If it’s not, and we are always waiting for perfect people to be with, we will be lonely people.
Grace and peace to you, my friend.
Apply: Think of a relationship in your life that is strained. What guidance does God give you as you ask how to see the relationship through grace and apply grace in the relationship?
Prayer: Lord, help me see everyone as you do…one’s in need of grace (just like me), and one’s with whom you desire me to show grace. AMEN.