When those I love hurt me, especially when it feels as if they intentionally inflicted pain, my desire for justice can quickly overpower any sense of mercy.
But then, as I mentally rehash all of their faults and sins, God quietly but firmly whispers to my heart … “Remember. Remember who you once were. Remember all the lies you told, the unkind things you said, and all the people you hurt: my children. Children I love even more than you love your daughter, husband, and closest friends.”
God and I had this conversation not long ago. I was struggling. Days before someone I cared deeply for was to celebrate a long-awaited, special event, someone in her life began acting hurtful, it seemed, deliberately hurtful, in ways that were hard for my brain to understand.
Watching, I was torn up inside. The more I rehashed all that had occurred, the angrier I became, and I worried about how I’d respond the next time I encountered the individual who had caused my loved one such pain. I felt certain I wouldn’t be able to show the grace and love of Christ I knew God desired.
Therefore, in my weak and sinful state—and to avoid giving voice to all the ugly words continually swirling through my brain—I opted for avoidance. I decided if I stayed as far from that individual as possible, I wouldn’t have a problem.
But then God directed me to Ephesians 2, which says, in essence, that we also used to behave in ugly, hurtful, sinful ways. If not for Christ, we probably still would. It is only by His grace we are saved.
It is only by His grace we've been changed.
I sat in that truth for a minute. I too had once been filled with sin, darkness, and deception. During my teen and young adult years, I’d hurt so many people. I’d probably caused them to wrestle with the same negative emotions I’d been struggling with over the past week. I’d hurt God’s beloved children, His kids. But rather than coming against me in wrath, He offered me mercy. He showed me the depths of His love and grace.
Through this passage and the memories it evoked, He reminded me grace is seen most clearly, most beautifully and powerfully, when it is displayed to those whom we feel are least deserving. This individual I felt such animosity toward, likely expected me to respond to them in anger, and in bitterness. But instead, God wanted me to shock them with unexpected, undeserved, supernatural love. The same love that God showed to me: it’s God’s kindness, not His anger, that leads mankind to repentance. Repentance is God’s grace- received to the depths of our hearts, that can bring out about change.
We all encounter difficult people, those who challenge our self-control and our love. And standing on the receiving end of grace, blessedly removed from our former selves, it’s easy to forget that we were once like them. But when we take time to remember who we once were, and our own desperate need for Christ, gratitude, and humility well up within us, giving us the strength to love others as He loves us.
The next time someone hurts you or someone you love, remember the beauty and power of grace. Sit in that grace for a while, until it flows from you.