Saturday, June 7, 2008

Grace & forgiveness

I've been thinking about Matthew 18:21-35 this week. It's the story of a slave who was shown awesome mercy. His master forgave a huge debt that he owed... but then that same slave refused to show any mercy to a fellow slave who owed him much less. I'm beginning to realize just how easy it is for me to be like that unmerciful slave...

Life has been pretty busy lately. I moved here just in time to get involved in a couple of really interesting (but pretty intense) projects. Any time you start something new, there's a bit of a learning curve... and always a chance that you'll make a mistake while you're coming up to speed. I've made a few of those already! It's embarrassing! Thankfully, there's plenty of grace for that sort of thing here. It's a great place to be. There's a kind of security and safety here that I'm only beginning to understand.

So you might think that such an awesome, grace-and-mercy-filled atmosphere would have an impact on my attitude towards others. I wish I could say that it has! But the truth is, I've caught myself being completely un-graceful towards a lot of folks here. I've had no patience for waitresses who got my order wrong. I've snapped at some folks who didn't know the "right" answer at the "right" time. Little things -- stuff that is insignificant compared to some of the mistakes I've made -- still have a way of getting under my skin and generating a reaction within me that is out of proportion to the offense... and the exact opposite of the grace/mercy that I have personally received from God and from others.

It's not like I set out to be that way... I'm not out there looking for opportunities to *not* show grace to others. Many times, I'm not even aware that I've done it until after the fact. That's frustrating!

Things didn't turn out so well for the unmerciful slave in Matthew 18. When his master found out what he had done, he threw him in jail to be tortured. Verse 35 kinda bothers me: "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

I tend to think of forgiveness as applying to the really big things. But I guess forgiveness would apply in any situation where you've been wronged, no matter how small. If I truly forgave the incompetent folks at the drive through who never get my order right... well, I suppose I wouldn't feel quite so passionate about calling them incompetent! And the truth is, regardless of how competent or incompetent they are, God still loves them. Jesus died for them. When I react to them in a way that doesn't honor God, what message does that send? What will they think if they visit my church or see me during a water outreach wearing my church tee shirt?

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