Friday, March 14, 2014

Learning Lessons About Grace

I've always struggled with the concept of God's all-encompassing mercy and grace. This struggle mainly rears its head when I look at others.

My basic understanding of grace is that it is undeserved, unearned and unmerited favour. Humans are capable of showing grace to others, but of course God demonstrates the greatest example of this. Every day, millions of the people He has created and loves basically give him the "middle finger salute" with every breath they take and the way they live their lives. Yet He lets them live, and often allows them to prosper. That's grace.

The internet can be an ugly beast. It brings out the worst in people. Occasionally I'll have a look at an atheist website or page on Facebook. There is so much arrogance, foolishness and profanity in people's hearts, and it all comes out on the internet. It's like a sewer. The Bible says "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks [and fingers type]" (my paraphrase).

I was going to put an example of something I read here, but it makes me sick even thinking about it. The person pretty much called God a certain type of deviant in reference to the virgin birth. It was vulgar and breathtaking in its arrogance. And that's not even the worst that's out there. Personally I struggle to come up with a reason why those people shouldn't be smote on the spot. Yet God lets them live.

In my struggle I need to keep remembering this from the Good Word: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" and then "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus."

I consider myself to be a person who is doing my best to live a life that God is pleased with by serving others. I care deeply for the poor and have sacrificed much to help other people. I have left everything behind and am now working in an orphanage. So I'll be honest and say I sometimes wonder "How can God think of me the same way as the arrogant, profane, violent fools that seem to be growing in number every day?" On the surface this doesn't seem 'fair' or 'just'.

Then I remember the above verse from Romans 3:23 - ALL have sinned. That includes me. I am still deserving of death because I haven't measured up to God's perfection. Just like those others. I am also in desperate need of God's grace. I can do, or have done nothing to earn it or deserve it. It's a free gift.

Onto the recent lesson I learned about grace.

I am a teacher. I have little time or patience for rascals. My expectation is that you follow my instructions or there are consequences. I have not had to teach many "special needs" kids, but when I have, there has naturally been disobedience, defiance and disrespect, which has led to confrontations, which has led to frustration, annoyance and anger on both sides.

Patience is something I always pray for, but I have failed to display it far more times than I care to remember. As a teacher I have not handled things as well as I would have liked on occasions.

On Saturday I was at PH268 Compassion Project in the Philippines. I have started helping there since I moved there 6 weeks ago to work at an orphanage called The Ruel Foundation.

The kids were in their classes, so I was on the playground, throwing a ball with the little son of one of the volunteer mums. One of the Compassion kids came out and sat on the playground. I could tell he was in trouble. I asked "what did you do?" and got no reply, along with averted eye contact.

I have developed a personal 'policy' of not acknowledging or giving attention to kids when they are being disciplined, so I kept throwing the ball with the little guy, while this kid just sat there.

All of a sudden I felt massively convicted. Compassion kids are from families that are often dysfunctional and violent, the poorest of the poor in their communities. I have made my goal in life to be like Jesus, to show every person the love of God in the way I treat them. Was I being Jesus to this young fella?

God reminded me of grace. There have been far too many times I have been grace-less to others. He has shown it to me, and I need to show it to this boy now. So we had a play, and the smile returned to his face.

Please understand, grace does not mean there are no consequences to our actions, and we can just get away with anything and do what we want. However, sometimes we just need to give people another go, remembering the grace and mercy God shows us every day of our lives.

I, for one, am thankful for grace.

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