As hard as it is for me to admit, if my thoughts were to be displayed on a mural for the entire world to witness, I am certain the evidence would be enough to prove I’ve mastered the art of holding grudges for immeasurable periods of time. This disposition also tends to lead me to believe God is the same way towards me – unwilling to throw my faults into the sea of forgetfulness.
Grace is not only hard to give to others, but incredibly hard to receive at times. Can you relate? If so, my hope is that you would keep reading. If not, read for the sake of someone who may.
By definition, the kind of grace the Bible speaks of is defined as being the “unmerited favor of God.” In other words, God gives grace not on the basis of our performance, but rather, on that of his character. The first mention of God’s favor (or grace) ever being given in Scripture is in relation to Noah in Genesis 6:8 where Noah, a righteous and blameless man among the wicked, “found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:9). In my efforts to study Noah’s story, I’ve often wondered why God would choose to give his “unmerited” favor to a man who seemed to have much merit in his generation. I mean seriously, Noah was the kind of person who if living in 2019, he probably wouldn’t have social media accounts for the sake of devoting his time to the Lord (that may be a stretch, but you get my point). While his generation veered away from all things good and God-glorifying, Noah was the kind of man who deliberately chose the ways that pleased the Lord. Does this make Noah worthy of the grace he received from God?
In comparison to the person on trial for attempted murder or armed robbery, I’m sure most who know me personally would consider me a wholesome person. Thankfully, I’ve never murdered a soul nor have I threatened to do so for the cause of thief. However, what is my reputation worth once it’s compared to an infinite God who has no record of wrong? How good am I really when my “little white lie” stands before the One who never lies and authors truth?
In Noah’s predicament, what allowed him to be a recipient of the Grace of God was not because he was by nature a good person. Like every human being to have ever lived on the earth, Noah perfectly meets the criteria of Romans 3:23, having “fallen short of the glory of God.” Noah was not an exception to this in the slightest, proving so the more his story unfolds in the the book of Genesis. Though God declared Noah as righteous and blameless, this does not mean he was without sin.
God imparted grace unto Noah because he is by nature a gracious God who is compassionate and slow to anger (Psalms 86:15). Noah recognized his sin was more than a playful tap on the hand of God, but a slap of indignation to his face, and because of God’s hatred for sin, Noah hated his sin as well and was overwhelmed in awe at God’s desire to show forgiveness, love, and patience toward him in spite of them. That’s what a gracious God does to those he chooses to reveal himself to – he overwhelms them. When God declares Noah as “righteous and blameless,” he does so because he lived a life of repentance, allowing him to stand out in a generation that refused to do the same.
If you’re a Christian, understanding God as gracious is of paramount importance to your faith. In terms of salvation, Scripture states that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
The first time I understood God as gracious was my freshman year of college. When hearing the Gospel explicitly for the first time, I remember not understanding why God wouldn’t consider my virginity as a reason to favor me, nor my reputation in high school by my classmates as being “best to take home to mom” a reason for me to be worthy before his sight. I couldn’t see my need to repent because I compared my faults to others, rather than comparing them to a holy and perfect God.
I remember wrestling with verses like Isaiah 64:6, hating how God considered the good deeds I worked to do, as well as the reputation I worked so hard to keep untarnished as “filthy rags”. I felt angry with God because though I couldn’t see it then, he was allowing the scales of self-righteousness to fall from my eyes. I lived a life seeking to earn God’s favor when God’s ultimate desire was for me to receive it freely through the person of Jesus Christ. While I sought to prove why I was worthy of love to an all knowing God, he was busy trying to show me how Jesus Christ did perfectly what I could never do, and if I would repent, believe, and trust him as my Lord and Savior, God’s favor would forever rest upon me.
Understanding God as gracious not only impacts my own relationship with God, but it has implications on my relationships with people. As mentioned earlier, I tend to struggle with holding grudges against those who have hurt me. Though I know this to be sin, if I’m honest with myself, unresolved hurt has a tendency of blurring things in our hearts and minds, including the truths of Scripture. In the moments where I find myself replaying a hurtful comment said by my husband, or an act that annoyed me, the Holy Spirit always (not immediately always, but eventually) puts Psalms 103:12 on my heart:
“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
As comforting as this Psalm is, it has also been extremely convicting for me as I navigate through my relationships with others. I think it embodies who God is to those who trust in Jesus as their hope of salvation. Because of the death and resurrection of Christ, the Triune God of grace has removed my transgressions from me, considering them no more. He, unlike me, is not a God who holds grudges, though he has every right to do so. Instead, he throws them into a sea of forgetfulness because of the sacrifice made on my behalf by Jesus Christ.
How life changing would it be if we kept this on the forefronts of our minds regularly? How would we treat others if we reminded ourselves of God’s grace towards us, though we sin and fall short often? I think it would radically change us and the ways we treat others.