We humans are frequently and horribly self-serving. Consider how we handle things that we don’t deserve. When our lives are assaulted with things we believe we don’t deserve, we usually return disfavor to its source. For instance, I have noticed that when a store clerk, a waitress, or some other service person makes a mistake on an order, humans are very quick to dish out contempt for the server. This is often true even if the mistake is the fault of the chef, or the manager, or some other person in the chain of events, and not the server. If the server greets us with coldness, we often scorn him or her without even considering what might be contributing to his or her immediate behavior. It never enters our minds that someone may have died, or a marriage may have been lost, or that spiritual forces may be at play for the soul of a person who is acting disfavorably toward us. Our return disfavor is expressed in our own verbal tones, or body language, a call to the manager, or perhaps, even in a direct verbal strike.
On the other hand, if we are met with undeserved favor, we can be quick to assign that favor to something good about us. Instead of recognizing the good favor as undeserved, we tend to lift up some portion of our lives that we believe to be righteous as the reason for our blessing. Rarely do I see a person who finds a $20 bill passing a portion of that grace on to someone else who also doesn’t deserve it. Instead, it is mostly used for immediate gratification.
Grace is favor that is not merited or deserved. It is a central element of the bible. And God expects us to be changed by it. In fact, he expects us to allow it to flow through us into others (1 Peter 4:10). In the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) Jesus tells of a man who owes his master a very great sum of money. He begs the master to spare him. The master cancels the debt, but the forgiven man finds a fellow servant who owes him comparatively much less debt. Ironically,he has that fellow servant punished for his inability to pay. The unmerciful servant had not been changed by the gracious mercy of his master. The grace of his master had not found its way into his heart.
There are many reasons why we do not forgive. I have found that chief among those reasons is that we too often fail to see the grace that has been extended to us. While we were still in rebellion toward God, he died so that we could be forgiven (Romans 5:8). That’s grace.