Grace is for the one who broke you

What does grace look like? No, not a dancer. Not your friend named Grace. God’s grace, the gift He offers to us freely that forgives us from our sins and provides us with a second chance after we fail (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Grace, in a religious context, is always about God’s unmerited favor. It’s God giving us something we don’t deserve, something we could never earn or ever repay. Grace is even a cute churchy acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Nice. Sweet. Easy to remember. But what does it mean? What does it look like?

Maybe I’m too practical, but while the cute little mnemonics are nice for memory, what good will they do if I don’t know how to apply them? If grace is essential to following Jesus, I should know how to use it.

So many times, I think grace and forgiveness and trust all get muddled together, as though they’re synonymous, and nothing is further from the truth. Rather, they’re all part of a process that’s connected to following Jesus. But if you do all three at once, you’ll end up back where you started.

Grace is for our enemies

God demonstrated grace for us when He sacrificed Jesus to save us while we were His enemies (Colossians 1:21-22). Did you realize that? We hadn’t done anything good enough to deserve Jesus’ blood. We can’t ever do anything worth His sacrifice. That’s what makes it grace. That’s what makes it a gift. It’s undeserved.

Grace is loving people who don't deserve loveThat’s the picture of grace we’re supposed to use. Grace is loving people who don’t deserve your love. It’s showing compassion and mercy and kindness to people who have done absolutely nothing compassionate, merciful, or kind for you. Maybe they’ve even done the opposite. Maybe they’ve hurt you, lied about you, gossiped about you, but no matter what they’ve done to you, it doesn’t mean you can’t love them (Matthew 5:44).

No, you can’t love them in your own strength. The only way you can love people who’ve hurt you or betrayed you is with Jesus’ strength. Practically that’s going to look different in every situation. In some cases, loving someone means speaking kindly to them or about them. In some cases, loving someone will mean stepping away from them, getting out of their lives and letting them face the consequences of their actions without you there to soften the blow. But one aspect of loving someone remains constant: Forgiveness.

Forgiveness is hard

There’s something in our natures that wants to cling to old wounds—or even to new wounds. We think that holding on them will make us stronger somehow, that rehashing every cruel word or deed will provide us with wisdom to face the same situation again. My dear friends, that’s a lie. Going over those hurtful memories constantly doesn’t make you stronger. It only makes the tear in your heart wider and harder to heal. And maybe it will harden you, thicken your skin so that you can withstand future hurts, but you won’t be withstanding them with God’s power. And your power will ultimately fail.

Let it go.

Grace is for the one who broke you

Pry your fingers off those old wounds. Stop digging into them. And let God work. Recognize that whoever hurt you is imperfect, just like you. And maybe they’re wrong, maybe the enemy is using them as a sledgehammer to bludgeon you, maybe they need to face consequences for what they’ve done. But that’s not your job (Romans 12:19). Your job is to forgive. To take those hurtful words, that painful situation, that horrible memory and stop holding it against them.

I know. It’s impossible. But only if you try to do it alone. God has promised that He will give us strength to do impossible things (Philippians 4:13). Once you throw off the heavy burden of all that pain and grief and sorrow, you’ll truly be free.

But what does it look like?

Because if you forgive someone, doesn’t that mean they’ll hurt you again? Doesn’t that mean they’ll just repeat what they did before? Or maybe they won’t even stop. Maybe they’ll see it as a sign of weakness.

guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your lifeThis is where Christians get so messed up. Forgiveness isn’t restoration. Forgiveness is choosing (sometimes daily, sometimes hourly) not to hold past sins against another person. But restoration is trust, and once trust has been broken, it must be earned back. The Bible tells us to offer forgiveness freely but to trust cautiously (Proverbs 4:23). Don’t just hand over what’s valuable to someone who will misuse it; you’re asking for trouble if you do (Matthew 7:6).

Be careful with people who have hurt you. They’ve done it once, and they may do it again. So think long and hard before you let them back into your life. That’s trust. That’s restoration. That’s wisdom. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven them.

Forgiveness means taking the hurt and the pain and the memory of what they did or said and turning it over to God. Stop turning it over in your mind. It’s not helping you. Capture each one of those damaging thoughts and choose to forgive. Move on. God’s got it. He knows the truth, and He’ll deal with each of us in His own time.

Live Jesus’ love

Regardless, extend grace to everyone (Romans 12:17-21), no matter who they are or what they’ve done. Always be kind. Always be truthful. Always think the best of others. Always help others. And don’t do it because you want to make them feel ashamed. Don’t do it out of some passive aggressive tendency to make them pay. Do it because you love them. Do it because that’s the way you’d want to be treated. Do it because tomorrow, you may be the one who has hurt someone else.

Following Jesus isn’t about you. It’s about Him.

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The moon in the evergreens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Living in peace when you’re hurting

Has somebody hurt you? Most likely, the answer is yes. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, people hurt people all the time. It’s an unfortunate fact of living in this broken world.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the church, but the majority of people who have hurt me are Bible-believing Christians. That shouldn’t hurt worse than if a nonbeliever hurt me, but it does. Because you expect more from a Christ-follower.

So how do you deal with life when you’re hurt? Whether it’s a Christian or a non-Christian who hurt you, the answer is the same.

The moon in the evergreens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The moon in the evergreens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Romans 12:17-21.

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Living peacefully among people is a difficult task, but it’s not impossible. With God’s help, we can do anything, but achieving peace with imperfect people is a doozy.

The plain and simple truth is that some people won’t be peaceful, no matter what you do or say. Some people insist on chaos between people, and that is up to them. If that’s the way they choose to live, that’s between them and God. But if you want to live the way God commands, you need to take steps to live at peace with the people around you.

The best way to do that is to live the way God says. Love Him. Love people. Forgive people. Be kind. Be generous. Be faithful. Be reliable. Be the kind of person people can see Christ in.

Will that bring peace between you and everyone you meet? No. Because some people refuse peace, but that’s their choice. Your job is to live your life so everyone can see that you belong to Christ, even when people hurt you.

Don’t drop everything you believe in and attack the people who’ve hurt you. Don’t aim to discredit the people who’ve hurt you. Don’t do everything in your power to hurt them back. Yes, communicate with them. Yes, tell them that they hurt you, give them the chance to reconcile (half the time, I swear people don’t even know the damage their words and actions do). But don’t take it on yourself to set things right because that’s a task too big for you.

We’re puny, weak little humans. We don’t know what right is. The only one who can set things right is God, and it’s up to Him to sort things out in the end. And He will. He’s promised He will. It won’t be in our timing. It won’t be when we want Him to, but He will make it happen.

But in the mean time, ask God for help to forgive the people who’ve hurt you and move on with your life. In my experience, those times when I’ve been hurt so deeply I couldn’t move on were at moments I really needed to. But that could just be me. I’m really, really stubborn, and sometimes God needs to use a 2×4 on me to get me to budge. So it may have been the only way to get me to open my eyes. And in that case, how can I think poorly of the people who hurt me? They’re just as flawed and imperfect as I am. And without what they did to me I wouldn’t be where I am now.

God can take hurt and pain and transform it into something beautiful. He can take the wreck of our lives and make it into something new. Don’t take that precious gift and throw it away just for the temporary satisfaction of hurting someone who hurt you. It’s not worth it. That’s like on step forward and three steps back.

You’re going to get hurt. That’s the way life works. But you don’t have to live in fear of it because God can use it. God can use anything. And when all is said and done, God will set everything right. He sees everything, and He sees the truth.

So let it go. Stop holding on to the hurt. You don’t have to. You’re free to love people, especially the people who hurt you.

Lions relaxing in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

A little love goes a long way

All this week, I’ve been focusing on friends, but what about the people in your life who aren’t your friends? What about those folks you have to spend time with who don’t like you? If you spend any time in the Psalms, you will realize that David talked a lot about people who hated him. He mourned how many enemies he had. And (just being honest), sometimes I wonder if the Psalms are always applicable to me because I don’t really have enemies.

I was looking for this one clip off of my new favorite television show, BBC’s Sherlock, where John Watson and Sherlock Holmes are talking about arch-enemies, but I couldn’t find it. Watson points out that people don’t have arch-enemies in real life. They have friends. They have people they like, people they don’t like, etc. And that’s how I feel about enemies mostly, at least when it comes to flesh and blood humans.

And I’m positive that there are people in my life who don’t like me. There have to be. I just choose not to think about them, because I’m such a people pleaser that if I start focusing on the people who don’t like me, I’m going to lose my mind. And I won’t be very useful to the people who do like me. But as nice as it would be, you can’t avoid people who dislike you forever. And even though it would be great to be the kind of person who everyone likes unconditionally, life doesn’t work that way. And if you’re going to stand for anything that matters, people will dislike you. Eventually, you’ll stumble across someone who is diametrically opposed to everything you believe in, maybe passively, maybe aggressively.

So how do you handle people like that?

Lions relaxing in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Lions relaxing in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Romans 12:17-21.

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

This is a difficult one to keep to. It’s so much easier to reciprocate when someone hurts you. It’s natural to want to hurt them back. And, of course, sometimes reciprocation is necessary. Sometimes for justice’s sake, people need to pay for what they’ve done. But that’s a legal issue. That’s a law issue. And I’m not a law enforcement officer. I’m not involved in legal matters in any way. And I don’t have the right to dole out punishments to people around me.

So what do I do when someone turns against me? How do I treat them when they purposefully set out to hurt me or hinder me or discourage me? I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have few influences like this. Most everyone I’ve met has always been an encourager, but there have been times when people I thought were friends turned against me. And, yes, my first response is to strike back, to make them feel what I feel. But that’s not how we’re supposed to respond.

We are to respond to the negative influences in our lives with love. If they hurt us, we love them in return. If they hate us, we love them in return. If they seek to destroy us, we love them in return. See the pattern? And I’m not talking about the fake smiles that hide the sneers behind people’s backs. Showing “love” to someone with the only intention of hurting them in the end isn’t love, and that’s not what this verse is talking about. When we’re supposed to respond in love, it means real love. It means the kind of love that only God can help us show.

And it doesn’t matter what they do to us. It says never return evil for evil. Not sometimes it’s okay. Not usually. Never. Never seek revenge. Never take matters into your own hands. That’s not your job. That’s God’s business. It’s our responsibility to live the way we’re supposed to, and God will take care of the rest.

But it’s not easy, especially when we have so many means at our disposal to hurt each other. That’s why we need God’s help. We need Him to move in our hearts and help us love the unlovable in a real way. One of the gifts the Holy Spirit gives us is love, and not just love for those who believe the way we do but love for everyone, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. That’s the love we need to ask for. That’s the love we need to show the world, because it’s that kind of love that makes us different.

So when you run into someone who doesn’t like you today, remember to show them love. Granted, don’t go out of your way to track them down and shower them with compliments. I mean, you can if you want, but that might make the situation worse. But if you can’t avoid them, if you have to see them, be kind to them when they are cruel. Thank them for their help when they treat you like dirt. Encourage them when they discourage you. It’s not easy, but God will help you do it. And who knows what might happen? You never know how God can work in someone else’s heart. Maybe all it will take is a little love.