You may be saying, “That’s all fine and good, Sam. But how does that apply to my daily life?” So, let’s explore some ways that serving a grace-filled God impacts our lives. First up: what does it mean to be grace-filled people? As a parent some of my most basic examples of Christian living come from my interactions with my children. And somewhere along the line I learned about what parenting experts call “retreating with dignity.” Children make mistakes all the time. Some parents choose to put their children on the spot, accusing them of making a mistake. Sometimes that works. Other times, all that does is intimidate the child into lying.
But when you allow a child to “retreat with dignity,” you give them ample opportunities to right their wrongs. You give them the chance to do right thing rather than immediately confronting them. When children feel they can trust the adult, they will open up to them. That’s difficult for parents to do – it requires humility, patience, self-control, and a certain leveraging of authority. Here’s a personal example. Sometimes our children tell us they have brushed their teeth when really, they haven’t been in the bathroom long enough to do so. And, certainly, there was no toothpaste involved. We can react one of two ways. We can say, “I know you didn’t brush your teeth – there wasn’t enough time! Get back in there!” Or we can say, “Wow, that was quick! Do you need another minute to brush some more?” the second one allows a child to retreat with dignity – without shame and condemnation.
Really, as grace-filled people, we have the same options. Do we strong-arm people into confessions of guilt or do we allow the Holy Spirit to convict? Chances are we’ve had plenty of chances to overlook the ingratitude and inappropriate remarks of others during the holidays, right? Listen to some scriptures about being grace-filled people in moments of great annoyance:
A foolish person shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. (Prov. 12:16)
A person’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (Prov. 19:11)
Peter, the disciple known for sticking the proverbial foot in his mouth, echoes Proverbs:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:8-11)
That’s the definition of graciousness – what grace looks like when Christians display it. It’s giving someone the benefit of the doubt, knowing that God will correct them in his timing, not ours.
So, what’s another area where grace can impact practical living? How about our family life? It’s normally our spouses and children that bear the brunt of our graceless words and actions. And that’s part of being a family. But what about a grace-filled family? What would a family centered on grace look like? Well, for families, there’s a simple formula: grace = space. Family members need space to be who they are, to make mistakes, and feel unconditionally loved in the process. And for that to happen, several things have to go out the window.
First, spouses and children have to be free of unspoken expectations about who they must be. All parents have expectations for their children…and spouses have expectations for one another. But when family members are held to a standard they do not know about much less are able to meet, defeat and resentment set in. Second, a grace-filled family is free of control and manipulation. One family member cannot hold the others “hostage” through intimidation, guilt, shame, emotional outbursts, and the like. To do so undercuts the trust and respect that God desires as the foundation of each family.
Does that mean that we shouldn’t have standards of behavior and consequences for our children? I’m not saying that at all. But how we apply those standards makes all the difference in the world. Once again, look at Jesus. He derived the same results as the Pharisees, but did so in a way that promoted love and freedom rather than legalism and fear. Likewise, a grace-filled family has the following qualities. Spouses work as a team rather than assign blame. They don’t drudge up past failures. They defer to each other and are more interested in what’s best for everyone involved. And finally, they allow God to do the correcting, not each other. Do we as parents as spouses have moments where cajoling, threatening, and manipulation occur? Sure. But for families walking in grace towards one another, those can be the exception – not the rule.