Grace-Full in the New Year

Do you have a resolution for 2021?  I am going to be more grace-full.  I have never been a particularly graceful person, despite being born on a Tuesday (“Tuesday’s child is full of grace”) but maybe the rhyme was talking about extending the grace of God to others.  That is what I want to do this next year.

Toward that end, my devotional book has been “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Phillip Yancey.  It isn’t the first time I’ve read this book and it certainly won’t be the last.  I taught several Bible studies centered on this book.  Phillip Yancey makes the case that Christians have a hard time being grace-full.  We are very good at accepting God’s grace for ourselves, but not very good at extending it to others.  Christians actually prefer rules and justice to God’s grace, especially when talking about others.

Think about this in your own life.  How many times have you said that something isn’t fair?  In contrast, how many times have you forgiven someone for a huge hurt, even though they weren’t repentant or “deserving” of your forgiveness?  The idea that someone has to be deserving of forgiveness is ridiculous.  Are we deserving of God’s forgiveness?  Jesus brings this point home in his parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him.  Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’  The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.  When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Phillip Yancey

Being more grace-full means extending God’s grace to others, even those who have hurt you.  I really value Phillip Yancey’s book because it reminds me over and over to show grace, love, and forgiveness.  I may want to harden my heart and be stubborn in my hurt, but I’m really only hurting myself.  The one who hurt me goes blithely on, unknowing and uncaring.

Unfortunately some of the most ungrace-full people I know are Christians.  Churches can be extremely judgmental and unforgiving places.  We want to help the “deserving poor” but have little compassion for those who continue to make bad choices.  And we are very hard on anyone who doesn’t fit our mold of “a good Christian.”

So my resolution for 2021 is to be more grace-full.  I want others to feel love and acceptance, not judgement, from me.  I want to be an instrument of God’s love, not an example of someone with a hard heart.  I want to let go of resentment, cynicism, and holding onto grudges.  I want to be a window to others into the love and grace of God.  May this prayer be one that I repeat every day this year.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.