A shocked look spread across all of our faces. We were devastated. Our world had suddenly changed – now what would we do?
Grace seems to be a common theme in my life over the last few months. When a good friend of mine died, her daughter let me choose some of her books; two had to do with grace. I put them on my bookshelf and one day as I walked by I glanced over and spotted the books, What Is so Amazing about Grace by Philip Yancy and The Grace Awakening by Charles Swindoll. Hmmm, I thought I might as well start reading them. Little did I know that it was God’s perfect timing that led me to focus on these two books.
For the last few months I have been a part of the collateral damage of a very difficult situation, where the actions of a Christian leader has had a profoundly negative affect on all involved. Through this process God has been teaching me the importance of being “grace minded” as I live in this fallen world.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). As soon as we found out about the transgression, we were all in shock and it looked like all of our hard work might fall apart. However, a friend of mind, who is a pastor, seemed to be at peace about every thing. He reminded me of two things: 1) it was crucial that the sin had come to light so it could be dealt with and 2) we remain in safe hands because Jesus has not changed. He is still the same, still walking with us, and will be with us no matter what happens. As I thought about this, I realized that God had allowed me to be in this time and place, therefore God would give me the grace and wisdom to walk through it.
I can’t change what happened, but I can ask God what he wants me to learn. As a group of us started to process what had happened and work through the circumstances, one very wise man said, “I have read that when God let’s us go through circumstances such as this that our focus should not be on the other person, but on what God is trying to teach me.”
His statement has resonated in my mind over the last few months raising the question, “what does God want me to learn?” There are a number of things, but the most significant one is the importance of practicing grace.
I need to extend grace toward others, just as God has shown grace to me. Even though I was disappointed and dismayed about what happened, and even though this person was in a leadership position and let so many of us down,God has called me to be “grace minded” and forgiving.
Isaiah, King David, and Paul painted vivid word pictures of what each one of us were like before God’s saving grace came into our lives.
Isaiah wrote: We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. (Isaiah 64: 6, NLT)
King David states: God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if there is even one with real understanding, one who seeks for God. But no, all have turned away from God; all have become corrupt. No one does good not even one! (Psalms 53: 2-3, NLT)
Through out Romans, Paul makes it clear that we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23, NIV)
Paul explicitly tells us in Ephesians that we were “dead (wo)men walking,” until God freely bestowed his grace upon us. We were totally undeserving. There was no way that we could save ourselves, nor earn or deserve the all-encompassing grace that God bestowed upon us.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:1-19, NIV)
So considering what I was like before receiving God’s saving grace through his son Jesus Christ and understanding that I was undeserving of such grace, it seems that I only have one viable option – to become “grace minded” and demonstrate grace and forgiveness toward others.
So how has God personally been teaching me to show grace toward this individual? To…
- Pray for full restoration and that the person will once again have a fruitful ministry and a vibrant life.
- Recognize the good things that the person has done. Even though a person may fall, it still is important to acknowledge and be thankful for all of the positive things that s/he has done. I believe that you can thank a person for all the good, while at the same time holding him/her accountable for wrong actions.
- Watch who you talk to about the situation. When you go through a crisis it is important to have mature Christians with which to counsel. You also may need to tell some people if the wrongdoing will have a direct effect upon them. However, during the crisis whom will it serve if you spread the tidbits of the bad news everywhere? No one, it just turns into gossip. (Personally, I don’t want people discussing all of my faults.)
- Keep the lines of communication open with the person, though I know sometimes this is not advisable. Let the person know that you are praying and want him/her restored. Encourage the person to do the hard work to get right with God and then walk along side him/her as the consequences are manifested.
This crisis is not over and the ramifications of it may be long lived, but there is goodnews. God is seeing us all through and personally teaching me a number of lessons about begin “grace minded.”
The Christian leader I referred to is asking God to break, mold, and restore his/her life and is taking the steps to allow God to work. And even though it has been agonizing for all involved, God continues to walk with us and lavish all of us with his grace and love.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalms 103:8, NIV)