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Showing Grace

Luke 6:32: If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. So be merciful, just as your father is merciful.

Some days, it’s easy to show grace. Sometimes, after singing along to “Amazing Grace” in church (the one where you suddenly find yourself singing, “My chains are gone, I've been set free!” when you thought they were singing the old school hymn version), it really does feel like you can take anything on. Bring it, Satan, we might say, Jesus and I, we got this. It’s easy to think you can fly when you’re on top of a mountain.

And then you find yourself in the express line at the grocery and you're late (like counting-the-minutes late) and someone in front of you wants to pay with cash and when the cashier says, “Ten-oh-eight please,” he looks at the two tens in his hand and drawls, “Do you have ten cents?” If I had 10 cents I would give it to the man who is clearly not going to break a 10 and get a handful of change in return. The lady behind the register does not. She calls over to the next register. “Hey Marce, do you have ten cents?” and the show continues down each row while the man just stands there, mouth slightly ajar, waiting for someone to cough up a dime. Grace. 

I'm helping a student after class and we turn to a problem. “But you never taught us this!” he whines. I turn a page back in his notebook. It's like a scene from CSI Miami (I think that's the more violent one.) There is no “good cop.” “Is this your handwriting?” I ask. He squints at it suspiciously. I think if it was even the slightest bit plausible, he would have claimed someone forged it for him. Grace.

Can you relate? Am I the only one who has had that time when I’m in line getting a burrito I’d been craving for 2 months and they are TOTALLYDOINGITWRONG? When the newb is wrapping a burrito which is now shaped like an overstuffed 3-pound food baby and I can see a fissure opening up in its side because that baby is TOO FAT? The 3,000 calorie monster is literally tearing apart at its seams and I know it’ll be a soggy mess that the foil it’s wrapped in is insufficient to contain. Some people would say this was a blessing, no?

What about when you put in an order at the drive thru and you check it at home and they slathered the thing you totally asked them to leave out all over your order?

When your student insists that the calculator told him that 3 times 4 is 52. And then acts defiant about it?

When you’re hungry and tired and you just got done washing the last dish and someone comes and tosses a food-filled fork and a barely-cleaned plate into the sink?

Some of these are petty, trivial, and honestly, most of these might not make a dent in your day. Most days. But some days they do. Some days they are a train wreck waiting to happen.

What credit is it if you’re nice when you’re feeling nice? When you’re kind on your good days? When you’re feeling like everything is trivial? What praise do you deserve if you’re a good citizen and you are commended for it?

It’s the times when you’re wrestling with yourself that make you, who you are. When you are punished for doing good, and when you are kind and are repaid with evil. When you feel that wolf inside that you’ve been secretly feeding scraps to tearing away at your insides. When you want to tear open your suit to reveal the superman inside that will “AVENGE THIS INJUSTIIIIICE!!!” When the things you know you don’t want to say become the things you want to say so badly, it just bursts out of you in words shaped like daggers.

Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” If God can love us at our worst; if while we were enemies, he chose to die for us, how much more should we show grace to those who have committed a much lesser degree of injustice towards us? If God, who knows our very soul and deals with our constant neglect of him, can we find grace for others on the days when anger clouds our vision?

Working with high school students for most of my day, almost every day, has changed me. There are days when there are legitimate injustices that need to be corrected. But most of these days are not those days. Most of these days include remembering that the student who thrusts his calculator at me and says, “See? 3 times 4! Oh wait…” is not just a kid with fat fingers but also a kid who needs grace. A kid who grew up without a stable family. A kid who never really knew what acceptance meant, and has always been punished for doing bad and rarely rewarded for doing good. Everyone has their stories, and if we take time to learn them, maybe it’ll be easier to show grace. Mercy. Maybe even love.

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