Riots. Wars. Terrorism. Military Brutality. Division.
If there ever was a time for grace, it doesn’t look like it’s now. It looks like it’s time to get some armor, put it on, and grab some friends.
But that’s not what we’re taught. We’re taught that a gentle word turns away wrath, and a harsh word stirs up action. (Proverbs 15:1) How we can we be gentle when we feel threatened, hurt, and angry?
The truth is that it might be New Year’s Eve, but 2014 isn’t going to end. At least, the issues of 2014 aren’t going to end. And it’s because we’re still learning a lesson. We’re going to have to learn, or we’re going to implode.
We, the people of this world and this time, need to learn the lesson — the intentionality — of the posture of grace.
The conflicts between tribes and nations, churches and people groups have now existed so long that we’re in a proverbial “what came first, the chicken or the egg” situation. What-belongs-to-whom, and who-started-what, and who’s right are questions that still need answers, but questions that don’t matter for the hour. Because we’re all waiting and expecting something from other people that they can’t give. We’re asking for an apology, hoping for restoration, and that just isn’t how this life works.
The nurse who administers too much medicine to her patient can’t bring them back to life with an apology. The rapist who apologizes can’t take away the life of terror they ushered in their victim’s mind. The nation that follows a diluted, narcissistic leader can’t rebuild villages with the words of regret expressed by a newly installed leader.
I’ve been married for a short time: a decade. But I can tell you that when bitterness and hurt, even between two people, has kindled in the heart for a long time, thinking through the past isn’t helpful anymore. Even an apology doesn’t fix the depth of offense. In fact, an apology can make things worse. It takes grace to accept an apology. And if the grace isn’t there, an apology can just make the blood boil. In a small conflict, the only way you can move forward, is to offer grace: is to offer forgiveness before the other person even knows that they need to apologize. Only then can you really think through questions like “what’s best?” And “were do we go from here?”
I don’t know if it’s possible to ask the tortured victim of some police/army/militia to let go of what’s been done to them. I don’t know if it’s realistic to ask a country to think well of invaders and build bridges of peace with those who will still like to decimate them. And I for sure don’t know if I could utter the words “preemptive forgiveness” to a mother who lost a child due to someone else’s fear, anger, or bigotry.
But I do know that we’re lacking. As a human race, we’re lacking in grace, especially in the less serious offenses. We’re lacking in the ability to be hurt and offended and just let it go, rather than demanding a punishment. Because a life of grace upon grace takes a person who is willing to do just that — to not be offended.
We somehow believe that justice has to be served before grace has been offered. But as Christians, that’s not the model we’re given. Grace first. Then justice.
If you’re offended by that notion, I understand. I feel it, too. But I’ve got my marching orders. And they are calling for strong, resistant, constant grace.