Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Stingy Grace

It wasn't his birthday, or Christmas, or even allowance day...  He hadn't done anything special or deserving of standing in the middle of the toy aisle at Walmart, but there he was, looking up at me with pure joy in his eyes, holding a new Lego set, that he didn't earn.  That joy lasted all of the rest of the day, but it was quickly forgotten the next morning.  After doing the rest of our shopping (that the big brothers HATE to do), we loaded up the car and headed home.  Before we pulled all the way in the driveway he was hanging out the window, bragging to his older brother, about the Lego set, mom just bought him.  Had big brother known that there was a chance he could get something at the store he would have gone, but since he thought it was just a grocery shopping trip he wanted to stay home, and he was green with envy that he didn't get something from the store...  it wasn't fair.  Big brother wanted to go the store and get a toy now too. 

I couldn't take him that day or the next or even the third day, because some mysterious illness plagued our house, but when everybody was well, middle child reminded me of how I had promised to take him to get a toy.  It had been just long enough for little brother to forget that he had been the object of blessing a few days before and he was upset.  He was jealous and angry, but much too smart to say anything to me, he didn't have to though, because his face said it all.  He was overjoyed when it was his turn to be blessed, but he didn't want anyone else to get the same undeserved goodness. 

Oh, how I know how he feels.  I'm stingy with God's grace just like he is stingy with mine.  I've been forgiven a million times for a million things, and blessed beyond anything I deserved or earned, and when it's my turn to be on the receiving end of mercy and grace I am overjoyed.  God had been extravagant with the way he has blessed my life.  I know I don't deserve the goodness that he has poured into my life, but I accept it with gladness...  Until I have to share it with someone else.  Christ has forgiven me for the unforgivable, but when it's my turn to forgive, I hold on to my grace.

I rejoice in the fact that I am accepted just as I am in the presence of God, but expect other people to be something other than themselves in my presence.  I can live close to God in my brokenness and know that I am loved unconditional, but I reject the brokenness in others that makes them do the things they do.  I drink in freely the love of God, but refuse to pour it out on other people. 

There is a guy in the Bible who has his very own book about exactly this...  Jonah was a prophet, he shared God's message of grace and forgiveness to his fellow Israelites.   Jonah must of known God's forgiveness very well to be chosen to share it with others...  You can't give what you've never received, BUT in Jonah's mind God went way too far when he sent Jonah to go to the wicked city of Nineveh and share about God's forgiveness and grace.  All 4 chapters are a testimony of just how stingy Jonah was with God's grace.   Finally, after a lot of drama, Jonah goes and preaches in Nineveh and everyone in the city, from the King all the way down, all of them, repented and followed God.   Chapter 4 tells us that Jonah went and sat on the hill above the city, angry with God for being so good to heathens...

I love Jonah's honesty when he prays to God, but it's SHOCKING what he has the audacity to say...

"But Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious.  He prayed to the Lord: "Please, Lord, isn't this what I said while I was still in my own country?  That is why I fled to Tarshsish in the first place.  I KNEW THAT YOU ARE A MERCIFUL AND COMPASSIONATE GOD, slow to anger, RICH in faithful love, and the One who relents from disaster."  Jonah 4:1-2

Then Jonah begs to die, because of how good God has been to his enemies.  How did Jonah KNOW that God was all of those things???  He had been the recipient of God's AMAZING GRACE, but he was stingy when it was time for God to be good to someone else. 

Are you that way?  Is is hard to give the grace that you've been given?  Do you somehow deserve it more than others?  You will know the answer to this question is yes if there is a person in your life it is impossible for you to forgive.  Do you find it hard to love them, to speak kindly to them, to be patient with their brokenness???  Don't be stingy with God's goodness.  He has been extravagant with you...  He has loved you with a love that you don't deserve and paid the ultimate cost to forgive you.

God the Father sent his own son to die for us so that we could freely be forgiven of our sins, and He expects us to pass that grace and mercy on to other people.  It is costly, but if we have a right understanding of exactly what God has done for us, being compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, the One who has saved us from disaster then we can give that same thing away to others.  It's our turn to bless someone with the grace we have received. 

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