Want to get the perfect gift for everyone on your entire list that will cost you absolutely nothing? Not only is this gift free, but it will not only overjoy the recipient. And if that weren’t enough, this gift grants the giver peace and blessing of exponential proportions every single time.
What gift could I possibly be referring to? The gift of grace. Last month we lifted our hearts, minds, and hands in a gesture of gratitude. This month, especially this month, we do the same with a spirit of grace. After all, that spirit is what we are celebrating with the advent of Christmas. The gift of GRACE has a powerful acronym: God’s Riches At Christ's Expense. God taking on human form was nothing we remotely merited. The law signaled hopelessness and separation from God because of our selfish disposition. The birth of Jesus Christ was wholly undeserved, making it the most critical act of grace in the history of humankind.
But let’s look at another supreme example of grace, this time from Jesus’ earthly adoptive father, Joseph. The Bible doesn't tell us much about Joseph. In Matthew 1, we learn that Mary has just found out she is with child by the Holy Ghost (v. 18). Joseph was well within his legal right to end the betrothal publicly per Jewish law. He is a righteous law-abiding man, but most importantly, he is a compassionate man. Therefore, even though he was justified in divorcing Mary, he had it in his mind to do so quietly (v. 19).
What makes a wronged person seek to maintain a spirit of relationship versus rightness? Grace does. Because of Joseph's graciousness, he was unwilling to put her to shame. And here, we see a powerful life lesson on the power of being relational versus right. Jesus was the perfect blend of grace and truth. He could deliver a challenging love sermon because He delivered it with a gracious spirit. Never forget, we have to lead with grace and then follow with truth. Too often, we get this order reversed, and the consequences are disastrous. We end up doing the "right" thing with the "wrong" spirit, and even though we are justified, we cause so much pain.
My father, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, taught that there could be no communication without identification. The modern verbiage of this timeless truth is, "People don't care what you know until they know that you care." Joseph cared for Mary, even though he had no idea that she was carrying the Son of God yet since the messenger had not revealed that to him. He choose to be kind versus correct.
I can remember disciplining an employee for wrongful use of his work computer. I made sure the individual was dealt with quickly and quietly to avoid further embarrassing him. Trust me; he was in enough pain over the consequences of his actions. I remember him stopping by my office with remorse over what he had done and thanking me for being so gracious with handling the offense.
Grace, it costs nothing, but it can save everything. Grace is not about who is right or wrong. Grace is about extending kindness, compassion, and mercy because human beings need it more than correction. Grace needs truth, and truth needs grace. However, make sure you put the grace before all else, just as Jesus' heavenly and earthly fathers did.
For eight years, I was estranged from one of my siblings, not just any sibling, but my best friend throughout the years. Years earlier, words that created a riff that neither of us attempted to mend. I know it grieved my mother deeply. Then, two years ago, on Thanksgiving, God laid it on my heart to end this separation. There was no unpacking of what happened, airing of grievances, or settling the score. Just a coming together in a spirit of grace as if we had just come out of a bad dream and couldn't imagine what took us so long. We've cried many tears of joy and sadness since then; joy at the reunion of best friends and heartbreak at the years wasted due to a lack of grace and overabundance of self-righteousness.
This holiday season, may you be inspired to give anyone you can the greatest gift of all; grace. Don't ask why; don't weigh the scales of justice; don't hesitate another moment. Write that letter; extend that invite; make that call; take that journey. Life's too short and precious not to be gracious. And remember, grace is not about an outcome; it's about your faith. May your faith be an abundant source of kindness and compassion that many need.