the audacity of grace

Posted: June 24th, 2009 | Filed under: God, life | Tags: , | 11 Comments »

The audacity of grace is the hardest thing, as a Christian, to deal with. We serve a God who pardons sins with no recollection. But, we live with minds that remember them, full well. Why can’t we be like God? Why can’t we forget, too?

Wouldn’t our song have more life? If we could erase the pain, wouldn’t our step have more bounce? The memory and the scars tear us down to skin and bones. Bitterness soils our sheets. Pain flavors our toothpaste. Our resentment turns our coffee cold. Our shoes are heavy. Our empty stomachs bloat with stress.

Where is the glory of God in his forgiveness? Where does it help you for him to forgive them? They’re not even sorry! 

Are we like Jonah? He preached to the Ninevites. Vile sinners, open and flagrant. Shameless. He told them what God told him to say and they repented. Then, Jonah, a prophet, a man of God, was furious. He practically spit on the work that God did when he pardoned the huge city of sin from their due. 

‘Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, “God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness!’ – Jonah 4:1-2

The audacity of grace. This two-fisted forgiveness that uses no gauge. Mercy that shows no respect to whom the mercy takes justice from. 

Where is the glory of God in his forgiveness, you ask? To whom do you wish to bestow glory? Yourself? Isn’t that why you’re angry? Isn’t that why you withhold grace? 

Where does it help you for him to forgive them, you wonder? Is this about you? Maybe it is, but not in a way you think it is. Maybe it’s a device to aid you in letting go of your ‘self’. Maybe your pain is your plank. 

You think they’re not sorry? What makes you an expert on the inner workings of another man’s heart? 

‘So don’t get ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in. When he comes, he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dreamed of—inner motives and purposes and prayers. … It’s important to look at things from God’s point of view. I would rather not see you inflating or deflating reputations based on mere hearsay. For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart?’ – 1 Corinthians 4:5-7

You can sulk if you want.

 

‘God arranged for a broad-leafed tree to spring up. It grew over Jonah to cool him off and get him out of his angry sulk. Jonah was pleased and enjoyed the shade. Life was looking up. But then God sent a worm. By dawn of the next day, the worm had bored into the shade tree and it withered away. The sun came up and God sent a hot, blistering wind from the east. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head and he started to faint.‘ – Jonah 4:6-8

 

You can complain about the shade tree God grew for you one night and took away the next.

 “What right do you have to get angry …?” – God, Jonah 4:9

Don’t be so shortsighted that you forget that there is so much that we don’t know and the only way to be right is to LOVE.

‘When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.’ – Romans 13:8


11 Comments »


11 Comments on “the audacity of grace”

  1. 1 Cindy said at 5:11 am on June 24th, 2009:

    Wow! Good message! Forgiveness an aid in letting go of self; "maybe your pain is your plank." Good stuff to think about. Goes along with a quote I read today from Rick Warren – self-centeredness is thinking about my problems, my issues, my pain. I guess God is speaking to me. 🙂

    But what about the one who flaunts herself in front of my at the gym? The one who has never blogged about being sorry or offered any kind of remorse. The one that only sees herself as a victim.

    Understanding what I'm supposed to do is easy. Not allowing myself to feel hurt/bitter…perhaps the hardest thing I've ever tried to do.

  2. 2 Serena Woods said at 6:46 am on June 24th, 2009:

    I think that if you deny yourself the experience of pain, you are only prolonging the finale. If you try to submerge the bitterness, you’ll never get rid of it.

    The only thing that will have any affect on the girl is love and mercy from you.

     

    I don’t know how to tell you what you need to do. It’s a process.

    When I hurt the people I hurt, I wasn’t thinking about them. I was thinking about me. People with no sense of value or purpose act out in distructive ways. Sometimes that distruction has a large ripple effect. Satan is very effective. He’s got her fighting for worth in the only way she knows how and he’s got you fighting for peace in the only way you know how.

    What if your friendship, the furthest thing from her, is what could heal her? What if her friendship, the furthest thing from you, is what could heal you?

    That may be asking too much. I can’t even imagine, actually. But isn’t that kind of how God is? Doesn’t he ask too much of us?

  3. 3 Cindy said at 4:48 am on June 25th, 2009:

    I've thought that same thing multiple times. One day I even had this overwhelming feeling of wanting to give her a hug, but oh how horrible it would be to be rejected by her. The anger and bitterness would just multiply X 100 and I would feel like a fool!! The fear of my extension of forgiveness and mercy being rejected keeps me from taking that leap.

  4. 4 Cindy said at 5:10 am on June 25th, 2009:

    Selfishness – the root of a lot of evil. As I think about things I realize that it is selfishness (concern for your own welfare and a disregard of others) that started our downfall from the beginning. Eve’s desire for an apple she wasn’t supposed to touch. Adam’s desire to save his standing before God by blaming someone else for his behavior. My actions concerning my own feelings, desires, needs, and wellbeing warring against my husband’s actions concerning his own feelings, desires, needs, and wellbeing gave Satin the foothold he needed to attempt to destroy my marriage. (Isn’t that what he uses to destroy over half of all marriages?) It was concern for myself that helped pave the way to my greatest pain. It was selfishness on the part of my husband that led him down a road he and nobody else would have ever imagined him going. It was selfishness on her part for disregarding any concern for me, my children, and the sanctity of marriage. It is selfish to withhold grace and forgiveness. It is selfish to refuse to offer an apology or show remorse or to accept blame for pain you played a part in causing . It is this selfishness on our part that keeps us from allowing God to bring complete healing and restoration through his grace, mercy, and love. It is when we take our eyes OFF of ourselves that we actually better our lives, improve our situations, and find real joy and peace. We pay lots of money for big houses, landscaped yards, and vacations to “paradise,” yet are too frugal to pay the price necessary to live in the ultimate dwelling place of “heaven on earth”.

  5. 5 Serena Woods said at 5:53 pm on June 25th, 2009:

    It sounds like you have spent a lot of time digging to the depths of yourself. 

    So, the question is: what's next? How does the next chapter read?

    People, in general, reach this place where the bridge between knowing and believing is missing. You can know what to do, but not have it in you to do it. 

    Referring to your own thought process: 'self' is the root of sin. I teach this in my Bible studies. Self-preservation has us trying to not drown when Jesus wants to show us how to walk on water. 

    The 'bridge' is faith or trust. God asks one thing of us concerning our relationships with people (especially our 'enemies') LOVE THEM. Not because it's easy, rewarding or reciprocal. We're supposed to love because we're clueless as to God's purposes and the only way to get in on it is love. 

    You know this. The answer to the question I asked earlier is: put your faith, your trust, into practice. 

    Self-preservation is our line. Step over the line of 'safety' into complete submission or stay where you are and protect yourself. 

    Speaking only for myself: if those who i have hurt, those who might easily call me the enemy, were to randomly hug me, it would crush me. I would have no reason to defend myself because they're not attacking. God knew the transforming power of love, that's why it is the only weapon he chose to conquer evil. We should follow his lead.    

  6. 6 Kimberly said at 6:46 pm on June 25th, 2009:

    Serena,

    I have been following your posts for the past couple of months. I am always excited to see a new one and am never disappointed. You have a way of making decades of questions make sense and in such a creative way. I'm not quite as open as you obviously are so I refrain from putting myself out there. The dialogue between you and Cindy made me aware that I'm not alone in my pain. My situation has had the benefit of time to allow healing. I wish I would have had your book and your "blogs" years ago. I hope and pray that the world is changed by your book. I know I am.

    (Cindy, you are very brave. I wish you the best.)

    Sincerely,

    Kimberly

  7. 7 C. Smithson said at 6:58 pm on June 29th, 2009:

    As a retired pastor, I have experienced plenty of change and growth in my understanding of the word. In my life it seems like the greatest epiphones have come through pain or confusion. This concept-The Audacity of Grace-is one of the hardest to grasp yet is my favorite in all of the bible. Just on this page you have four different individuals with four different levels of awareness (or maybe acceptance) of what this really means. Your story is well documented and is why we are all here right now. One of these ladies has been hurt and is feeling the residual effects of something she most likely did not deserve but she is desperately trying to do the right thing. Another woman appears to have a little bit of time between then and now and, as is common, that time has helped her see things more clearly. Lady number four seems to still be living with the the pain and bitterness and gives the title of this message life. The audacity! Where does he get off?! Well ladies from where I stand you are all on the right track. You are all asking questions and being open. From the sweet "brave" young woman to the "bitter" doubter who is finding the grace of Jesus audacious. Thank God that grace is for sinners!

  8. 8 Amy said at 4:52 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    Serena, you continue to amaze me. You’re strength and desire to share this awesome message is such an encouragement.

    Now in regards to this blog, this topic is by far one of the hardest things I have struggled with in my life. While reading through all of the comments, my mind was racing with things to say.

    To the one whose pain is still so fresh, my heart goes out to you. Don’t ever let go of God’s promise that He would never leave us or forsake us. I know there are times when you feel like the pain will never go away and that joy will never be restored, but in time God will heal, you just have to completely submit to Him. And through that complete submission, you have to give grace to those that have wronged you. This is something that I pretty much refused to do for several years and recently realized that until I did that, I could not and would not completely experience God’s grace in my own life. I know it’s scary and places you in a vulnerable place, but believe me God will reward you and the restoration that needs to take place in your life will begin the moment you allow God to give you the strength to show grace. It sounds like you know exactly what you need to do, but it’s just taking the leap of faith. Stay strong and remember you’re not alone.

    It is so hard to understand sometimes why we can’t fight back against those that wrong us, especially when we don’t deserve it. Something that has brought me a lot of peace through my situation is the verse Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you…” He knew the pain I would suffer, the tears I would cry, the hurtful words I would hear and He has always been waiting with open arms to pour his love on my life.

  9. 9 Serena Woods said at 9:45 am on July 2nd, 2009:

    Amy, that made me cry. 🙂

  10. 10 Cindy said at 4:40 pm on July 2nd, 2009:

    Thank you Amy. 🙂

  11. 11 Serena Woods said at 10:27 am on July 5th, 2009:

    Amy is a 'Grace Is For Sinners' reader and a part of the accompanying bible study. She came in with a lot of hurt, but opened her heart to the message. One of the biggest challenges I give the people at the bible study is to forgive and ask for forgiveness. She actually took it to heart and has a cool story to show for it.

    Now she's able to use her experience to nourish others. To 'Be the Upheaval'. (the final 'Grace Is For Sinners' challenge.)

    When I don't write what I'm supposed to write, I can't write at all. I've been avoiding what God has been telling me because I don't think I'm the right person for the job.

    My devotions have been about this subject, the sermons I listen to, both at church and via podcast are about this. So, I guess it's time for me to just write it.

    After six days of crashing into Matthew 18:21-35, I, too, will sumbit and see what happens. This whole comment section is a huge inspiration for the blog I'll call: 'Choose your own adventure.'


Leave a Reply