In an ideal world, you would get along with everyone you meet. But as you know, that’s not always the case. Here’s what I’m finding helpful these days.
Maybe it’s a boss or a relative, or maybe a neighbor or someone else close to home that is hard to love at times. Today, these people are often referred to as E.G.R’s or Extra Grace Required people. Maybe, just maybe, that phrase instantly rings a bell and you’re picturing that person right now. Try as you might, when you see them coming down the hall at work, you look for a side door to escape.
At times, it may even seem that God surrounds you with a bunch of these porcupine people! They’re not just in the workplace, but at the super market, in the line for gas, on the school board, in the locker room and sometimes even in your home!
Or, if you’re not the person who has a hard time getting along with everyone, you know someone who does. We all know at least one Grinch who hates everyone and is very vocal about it. Guess what? If they talk poorly about everyone they know, they also talk poorly about you when you’re not around. Kind of a bummer, yes, but true. Intuitively, you’ve probably already know that. The fact is, when everyone else is a jerk, in most cases, you’re the jerk.
If you’re lost, let me explain. These days, when I have a hard time extending grace to those who need it, I immediately remind myself how much grace I need myself.
Grace by definition is a free, unmerited favor. Something you get although you’ve done nothing to deserve it. We see it in Jesus and the price he paid on the cross for us. He died for us before we were ever born, not because we were good, but because he knew we would need forgiveness. He didn’t punish us to make us better. No, he took the punishment himself and forgave us and that’s what makes us better.
When I’m cruel to those who are cruel to me, that doesn’t help them or make them better. It starts a vicious cycle. It’s like the proverbial dog who chases its tail. Rather than harming those who harm me, my best recourse is to treat them the way Jesus treats me on a daily basis. I need to treat them the way I would want to be treated if I were in their shoes.
This includes our spouses. It’s so easy to note all of our spouses personal flaws and overlook our own. However, these days when I find myself being critical of others, I’m learning to look in the mirror and remember my own need for grace and mercy.
Right about now, if you’re feeling bad about yourself, remember this, God loves you and there’s nothing you can do to make him love you any more. Likewise, there’s nothing you’ve done that will make him love you any less!
If there’s anything you’re doing to earn his love and acceptance, stop! While grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Rather than doing more for God, it’s time to start doing less if you’re doing what you’re doing to earn his favor, rather than to express your thankfulness.
I used to think being a Christian was all about how much I gave or read the bible or went to church. While these disciplines are important, they are to be an expression of my love for God, not a measure of how much he loves me. For example if I miss church or a time in the morning reading his word or I’m ugly with my wife, it’s so easy to start believing God doesn’t love me that much. I’ve heard it said that ‘religion is all about what you do, and Christianity is about what has been done’. Taking that a bit further, if you ever get to the point where you think being a Christian is all about what you do, you’re done.
So who have you been denying grace while expecting grace from them in return? What if you decided to extend grace not only to them, but every one you meet?
Extending grace to those who don’t deserve it is not only a Christ like thing to do, it’s also the grown up thing to do. Maybe the person you’re dealing with doesn’t know how to be kind to people who mistreat them because they’ve never been treated that way themselves. Maybe their whole life has been spent trying to earn love and acceptance. Perhaps they started young and believed they had to be a good son or daughter to earn their parents love.
According to the world we live in, everything has to be earned. The world says you have to earn love, you earn money, you earn a degree, you earn a title. There’s no denying the importance and value of all these efforts. However, if you reflect, you’ll realize that you can’t work hard enough to earn all of the things you have. For instance, how do you work to earn oxygen, or good looks, or health, or our children? Though we often take these things for granted, they are priceless! There’s nothing you can do to earn them, they’re free gifts. God loans them to us to enjoy and treasure, not because we deserve them, but because he is soooo good!
In reality, we’re all E.G.R people! We sin, just as easily as water rolls off a ducks back. We are not perfect, especially if we’re trying to be. What we really are, is people who not only need to extend grace, but people who need grace….on a daily basis, moment by moment, hour by hour. The good news is that it is available through Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross some two thousand years ago. You don’t have to wait to receive it next week or next year. He is alive and well and extending it each moment. There’s nothing you can do to earn it. You simply receive it and share it with others. So what are you waiting for?