My husband is probably cringing right now because he knows I’m sharing this with you. And honestly, part of me hates to share it too, because it means letting you see the self-serving and prideful nature that too often rears its ugly head in my heart.
A few weeks ago Timothy and I were driving in our lovely all-wheel drive Subaru in a snowstorm and loving it. We had just finished climbing together at an indoor rock gym and were feeling pretty spectacular because honestly, for these transplanted southerners snow is still kind of magical and fun. And then almost instantaneously, the fun was over. Timothy decided to drift slightly on the left turn to the on-ramp for the highway, and we ended up sliding right into the guardrail. Thankfully, we weren’t going very fast at all and we ended up with just a small scrape on the driver’s side of the front bumper.
I knew that Timothy felt absolutely miserable and was already beating himself up about the whole incident. I kept reassuring him that it was really ok and that I wasn’t upset with him at all because I hated to see him so distraught. And truthfully, I wasn’t concerned that there was a scratch on our car; I was just thankful that it was only a scratch and we wouldn’t have to pay any money to get anything fixed!
And as we drove home I thought to myself proudly, this is what grace looks like. He made a mistake, and I forgave him anyway. But the Holy Spirit was not about to let me bask in my pride. The next thought that crossed my mind was, “If you’re so good at giving grace, then why do you so often withhold grace?” Ouch. That shriveled my pride right up like a raisin. Because it was true.
You see, I didn’t have a problem giving Timothy grace for something he already felt terribly remorseful for. But all too often I begrudge him forgiveness when I’m feeling hurt or if I don’t think that he feels sorry enough for what he’s done. Like saying something that hurt my feelings. Or flying his little drone near me when I’ve already asked him not to. Or a number of other petty little things that I try to hold against him until I feel like he has done enough emotional penance to deserve my “grace” and forgiveness. But then that’s not really grace, is it?
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly . . . but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6, 8 (ESV)
Jesus died for the ungodly. While we were still sinners. It doesn’t say that Jesus died for those who are willing to repent, or for those who feel enough remorse to deserve forgiveness. In fact, Jesus even asked God to forgive the very men who were crucifying him—while they were still in the act! That is true grace.
It is easy to be gracious when someone is repentant or remorseful. But God calls us, as imitators of him, to a higher standard—to give grace freely.