We have a saying in our house, “Truth is truth whether anyone believes you or not.”
Knowing that we serve a God who knows the truth often frees us to extend grace to those who would argue.
Did you really destroy his Lego creation on purpose? No? God knows that and will defend you.
Did you really lie about what you were doing with her? No? God knows that and will defend you.
Did you really hurt him when I was out of the room? No? God knows that and will defend you.
Did you really say that ugly thing about so-and-so’s husband? No? God knows that and will defend you.
Maybe his defense will be in heaven rather than in the here-and-now, but God knows and he’s got your back. And he’s got your front and sides, too, while we’re at it. 🙂
I hope I am preparing my kids (and my own heart) to defend their faith in a world which denies God, while also arming them with an ability to live before the face of God in all circumstances. I want them to know with certainty the truths of scripture hold in spite of what “science” or “authorities” say. I also want them to be able to debate with clarity and solid evidence for what they believe. But most importantly I want them to be able to do so with grace – to answer people as they need to be answered, not as they deserve. To keep their calm because they know Truth in the person of Christ and sense God’s pleasure in their knowledge of him. I don’t want to raise angry prophets. I want the arrows that fly from our quiver to be agents of peace.
But they only do what they learn at home. I must be an agent of peace by extending grace as needs demand or they will never learn to do so.
I think grace has many faces. Grace is like a multi-faceted diamond – and you have to know which facet will best reflect the light. Sometimes it is grace to overlook an offense. Other times it is grace to confront. It takes wisdom to know which facet of grace to explore and apply to any given situation.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
— Ephesians 4:29
In order for my speech to not be corrupting, I must accurately assess what is needed, and be willing to set aside what was earned.
The only way my speech will build up, fit the occasion, or give grace is to discern what is needed, and to give up on what is owed. To lay down my rights.
This is sometimes easier said than done. Like when a child mindlessly harms a sibling or breaks something valuable. Or when a thoughtless comment at my expense leaves me sinking in shame. Or when a person in the church dehumanizes the “leadership” of the church with comments that simply fail to recognize the real-live people who serve in leadership roles, (oh, and my husband is the pastor – the leader of leaders…). Or when a child falsely accuses a parent of deceit or manipulation.
In moments like these, it is really hard to look and see what is needed by the offending party. It is much easier to think of what they deserve. Or better yet, to respond before thinking with a reflex that sends them reeling from the blow.
But if I am to follow Christ’s example, I must pause to consider what is needed. I must take my thoughts captive and bridle my tongue and learn to speak what is fitting for the occasion that grace may abound.
Maybe the child that just wounded a sibling needs to be reminded they are loved rather than receive a(nother) lecture on their irresponsibility.
Maybe the child who broke the vase needs assurance of their value more than a verbal invoice stating the value of the vase.
Maybe the thoughtless comment needs private inquiry rather than a public, sarcastic come-back.
Or the careless congregant needs a gentle reminder of the humanity and personhood of those who serve in the church. Sometimes people simply forget that pastors, elders, and deacons are people, not some entity without feeling or personality.
Maybe the child with the harsh words and false accusation needs discipline – but maybe he/she needs to be reminded of the integrity of the parent and the history which refutes their accusation – or maybe he/she needs a soft answer without any justification so he/she can arrive at the right conclusion on his/her own.
Which face of grace is needed? Where do I need to offer compassion instead of consequence? It is easy to figure out what the offending party deserves. It takes wisdom to discern what is truly needed.
Need-based grace is not a system by which we dole out grace based on who has the greatest poverty – unless we are looking with compassion on the poverty of the soul in the moment.
Need-based grace is the discipline to guard our hearts which are the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23), to bridle our tongues until they follow our command (James 3:1-10), and to answer everyone with the truth that is our hope (1 Peter 3:14-17). It is our opportunity to step beyond being merciful by withholding punishment (Luke 6:36), and give what is needed (Proverbs 25:20-22).
I challenge you today to look with eyes of grace at the opportunities God gives you. To give what is needed rather than what is deserved. To be liberal with compassion rather than consequences.