Swan on the water at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Give grace away because nobody is perfect

How often do you get frustrated with people? I wish I could tell you I was the epitome of patience and forgiveness. But I’m not. Not even on my best days.

Some people just have a gift for finding every button I have, and they seem to thrill at pushing it over and over and over again. Sometimes I think they do it on purpose. Most of the time, I don’t think they even realize that they’re doing it.

Seriously. Think about it. Not every person who drives you nuts is a jerk. It could be that they are oblivious to how they are bothering you, and in that case, it’s in everyone’s best interest to talk it out.

What it really comes down to is understanding that nobody’s perfect. We say that. We say it about ourselves. We say it about each other. But do we really believe it?

Swan on the water at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Swan on the water at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Colossians 3:13.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we lived in a world where nobody screwed up? Where everyone loved each other? Where no one hurt each other?

That world is coming one day, but it’s not here yet. For now, we’re locked into this world where people with the best of intentions still end up walking all over other people. People who may just be trying to do the best they can end up hurting people around them. People who are just people make a wrong move and cause irreparable damage.

And what can be done about it? Well, if something wrong was actually done, then learn from it. If mistakes were made, correct them. But what if there was no mistake? What if there was no wrong? What if the only thing two people have against each other is their personalities? What do you do then?

Is one person’s personality wrong?

People come in all shapes and sizes and moods and shades and flavors, and God made them all that way for a reason. He’s got a special plan in mind for every person He’s made (whether they accept that plan is up to them), and while we all do need to do our part, just because your personality doesn’t mesh with someone else’s doesn’t make them wrong. And it doesn’t make you wrong either.

Some people just naturally rub each other the wrong way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t love them. That doesn’t mean you can’t forgive them when they drive you crazy. Believe it or not, you probably drive them crazy too. Remember that next time they have you climbing the walls.

The plain and simple truth? Everybody needs grace. Not one person is sufficient to make it through this life without God’s grace. And if God is good enough and big enough and great enough to give us grace for the things that we have done, don’t you think we can give grace to the people around us?

Now, giving grace doesn’t mean you restore someone who screwed up to a position of high authority right away. That goes into trust issues. But what it does mean is that you don’t hold it over their heads. You don’t keep bringing up their screw-ups and you move on.

That’s what God does for us, and that’s what we should do for each other.

So the next time that family member or coworker or fellow church attender does something to make you angry, take a moment and ask yourself if he knows he’s doing it. And if you feel strong enough, ask him about it. If he knows that what he’s doing drives you crazy and he does it anyway, you might want to rethink that relationship. But most likely, he won’t have any idea.

And in that case? Offer some grace. Forgive him and let it go. Life is too busy and too big and too awesome to spend your life fretting over tiny little upsets.

Give grace away. Everyone needs it.

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Steps of a temple in the Mayan Ruins of Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

Being patient with other people

Do you ever just want to haul off and smack someone? I do. Some people get under my skin to the point that I really just want to shake them. I don’t, of course. I usually resort to making faces at them and taking notes about their behavior to feature them as an irritating character in my next novel (you’ve heard it’s not wise to upset a writer, haven’t you?).

But is that the way we’re supposed to be? As followers of Christ, we all have the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We just don’t always choose to use it. According to Galatians 5:22-23, everyone who has the Holy Spirit has the opportunity to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Yesterday I blogged about being patient through circumstances. But what about being patient through relationships?

Steps of a temple in the Mayan Ruins of Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

Steps of a temple in the Mayan Ruins of Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Colossians 3:13.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

When it comes down to being patient in difficult situations, I can do that. Actually, anymore, the more difficult a situation gets, the better I am at being patient through it. In the last five or six years, I feel like every situation I’ve been in has been difficult, and this year has felt like a constant emotional roller coaster. We’re not even halfway through 2013 and I’m already exhausted. But I’m not impatient.

However, all it takes for me to lose my cool–I mean really lose my cool–is for me to come in contact with a stupid person. If you’ve ever driven in the car with me, you know this is true. I don’t get angry very easily, but when it comes to bad drivers? Wow. Yeah, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Today’s verse stings because I’m not very good at making allowances for the faults of others. I think it’s my own perfectionism. Deep down inside I hold myself to such high standards that I expect others to perform to a certain level, and if they don’t, I get impatient with them. After all, excellence isn’t that hard to achieve. If I can do it, why can’t they? Right? Any other perfectionists out there hear me?

But the heart of today’s verse is patience and humility. Maybe I’m driven to be perfect, but I guarantee you that I’m not. No one is. And everybody knows that, but there’s a difference between knowing it and living it.

When someone wrongs you, forgive them. Why? Because it won’t be very long before you turn around and wrong someone else, whether you intend to or not. And you appreciate being forgiven, don’t you? You appreciate people being patient with you, don’t you?

Granted, there’s a level of stupidity that you shouldn’t have to deal with. Some people are fools, and f0ols are dangerous to have in your life. Those are the people who keep making the same mistakes over and over again and never learn from them. But even those people don’t deserve cruelty. We should still be patient with them, even when we cut them out of our lives.

God forgave us. And when God forgives, He puts our faults out of His mind. They don’t exist to Him anymore. And that’s how we need to forgive others. When someone offends us or does wrong to us, we need to choose to see them as a human being who isn’t perfect, just like us.

Yes, there may need to be a change in the relationship, but don’t give up on them. Just be patient with them. People are people, and they don’t change until they start listening to God. And that is true for believers and non-believers alike because you can be a follower of Christ and not be listening to the Holy Spirit.

Think of a person in your life who drives you crazy. Identify why that is. I’ve got one in mind right now. Decide that you’re going to be patient with that person today, that you’re going to show them love and forgiveness even if they don’t reciprocate, that you won’t let their actions dictate your responses, that you’ll listen to the Holy Spirit’s whisper above the screaming of your heart.

It will make a huge difference in your day. And it might even make a difference in their heart. You never know how God will use you, but it starts with listening and obeying the Spirit.

Standards

I work for a plumbing, heating and pipe-joining systems manufacturer. It’s actually a really great company, and I really enjoy my work (even though it does tend to stress me out a lot of the time, but most of that is just my failing to deal with it properly). My company, Viega (pronounced VEE-guh), is honestly a pretty unique place. Once of their claims to fame is that they hold themselves to a high standard of quality in manufacturing. And, although I’ve never visited the manufacturing plants in Germany, I have seen the one in McPherson, KS, and it really is pretty incredible. Everything has a place, and everyone knows what they’re doing. And it’s so clean most of the time you could eat off the floors.

The are passionate about plumbing, which sounds really strange, but it’s true. They are devoted to quality assurance and making sure that customers get the very best products possible. I know, I know. I sound like I work in their marketing department . . . well . . . I do.  =)

But when I read the verse of the day this morning, I actually thought about Viega and their high standards of quality.

Now, maybe this is a stretch, but hear me out.

As a followers of Christ, we are supposed to live a life above reproach. We are supposed to hold ourselves to a different standard than other people who don’t believe the same way. Now, does that make us better than them? Absolutely not. All people are 100 percent equal in God’s eyes. None of us are good enough to get into heaven without Jesus’ help. But those of us who have chosen to follow Christ — who claim to be Christians — we know right from wrong, we have the power of God in our lives, and we are expected to live life the way Jesus did.

So what happens when we screw up?

It does happen, you know. A good example? If you read this blog with any consistency, you know I truly struggle with my temper against bad drivers. I just have no patience for them. Well, I don’t know what happened yesterday, but I was turning right on Maize road at Kellogg (it was near 5pm; that was my first mistake). And I waited until all the traffic turning off Kellogg had gone past, and I didn’t see anybody coming so I went. But apparently the light had turned green and the traffic from Maize on the other side of Kellogg was closing in. There was a black truck heading straight for me. So I stayed in the merge lane until he passed and jumped in right after him, flooring the gas pedal. Unfortunately, it was a little closer than I like to push it, and I might have caused the driver of the white car behind me a slight bit of distress. . . .which he gestured quite abundantly in my rearview mirror, though he didn’t even need to hit his brakes. (I felt bad about it . . . and then he swerved around me and tailgated other people in the left-hand lane until he turned off on 21st and then I didn’t feel so bad because he was obviously an impatient driver anyway . . . but that’s probably rationalizing).

So even I, who have a terrible attitude about bad drivers in Wichita, can accidentally pull out in front of somebody sometime.Everybody screws up.

What do we do? 

Colossians 3:13

13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

As believers, we are held to a higher standard of life. We are expected to live a life that is as blameless as possible so that we can bring glory to God, but God knows we’re not perfect. And God knows that at the moment, every believer has two natures — the redeemed nature and the old black sin nature that drags us down and tempts us to sin.

We have to recognize that people sin. And we have to realize that other Christians sin. And while we are never to condone it, we also need to expect it to a certain extent. Not expect it as in, “eagerly anticipate the day when So-And-So will make a terrible mistake and commit some kind of attrocity.” No. Just understand that everyone sins. And when a Christian makes a mistake, don’t hold it against them. Forgive them. I guarantee that whatever they’ve done isn’t as bad as what you’ve done.

And half the time, you don’t even know what’s going on. You may perceive something as a sin, and it might not be. After all, we’re not the ones to judge sin. The Bible is.

It’s our job to love. That means forgiving people. That means understanding that although we believers ought to live a life above reproach, there are moments in every Christian’s life when we will be less than perfect.

However, there’s a big difference between sinning once and repenting (which is just a fancy religious word for being truly sorry and purposing never to do it again) and sinning repeatedly. Repeated sin is rebellion, especially when it’s coming from a Christian who knows better. And that’s a different topic altogether.

But, Christians, we all need to get along. We’re family, after all. And we’re going to spend eternity together. So when your brother or sister makes a mistake, don’t be so hard on them. Don’t lecture them on what they’ve done wrong. Don’t keep bringing it up time and time again. Don’t hold it over their head, and don’t put them on guilt trips about it. Just forgive them. Then do your best to forget it and keep loving them. Encourage them. Help them. Hold them up. Build them up.

I guarantee that sort of response will be more beneficial than a lecture anyway.