Grace by Sheila Jacobs
Grace by Sheila Jacobs
I’m always amazed at the way Jesus treated people with such grace. I have often spoken (and written) about the woman at the well’s encounter with Jesus (see John 4), but it’s interesting to look at the way He dealt not just with strangers, but with His friends. It challenges me about my own attitude, and the ‘filters’ I use when dealing with others.
Strangers and friends
Zacchaeus was not the most popular of people. He was basically fleecing his own people on behalf of the Romans (see Luke 19:1-10). A little guy, he climbed a tree to get a better view of Jesus – and found the Son of God telling him He’s coming for dinner. You can imagine what the people thought. We get an idea in verse 7. But spending time with Jesus causes transformation in the tax collector’s heart. Jesus didn’t come to condemn; He didn’t point the finger and accuse. He came alongside.
But if Zacchaeus was a stranger, Peter was a close friend. After Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead, He met with His disciples on the beach (John 21) – the very disciples who had run away, and even, in the case of Peter, denied Him – three times.
What did Jesus do? Reject Peter? Berate him? Point out his faults in front of others? No. He cooked them all breakfast, and then asked Peter three times if he loved Him; what restoration! And He recommissioned him, asking him to take care of His sheep, His lambs – His people.
All about relationship
How often do we accuse, reject, berate, point out the faults of those who have hurt us – if not to their faces, behind their backs? Jesus’ message was one of forgiveness. Forgiveness is difficult. But holding onto blame and bitterness will only poison us. We have to view it as not so much letting the offending party off the hook as letting ourselves off the hook. How can we walk forward with Jesus when we are always looking back in anger?
If we have committed our lives to following Jesus, we need to learn from Him. He dealt with people kindly, bringing the kingdom of God to their door, extending grace – God’s free, unmerited, unearned favour. When Jesus died on the cross He bought us new life – He is our righteousness, our holiness and our redemption (see 1 Corinthians 1:30). Nothing we can do can make us right with a holy God. All that is required of us is to believe; to accept the gift; to come humbly to the King of kings and surrender all to Him. We receive much-needed forgiveness there. And when we view how much we have been forgiven, we need to ask God for His grace to forgive those who have hurt us.*
It’s all about relationship. How did Jesus treat people? The same way He does today. We cannot meet with Him and stayed unchanged. He transforms us as we respond to His love. You can’t make someone love you, and Jesus won’t make us love Him, either. He invites us to come and follow.
So often we deal with people through the filter of our own ‘stuff’ – what we’ve been through. We live in the past, project into the future – and forget that God wants us to live in the ‘now’. Just as Jesus didn’t ignore Peter’s denial, but gently restored him, so He doesn’t ignore our mistakes, hurts and disappointments either. We need to bring them to Him and let Him transform us as we ‘let go and let God’. Let’s try to give our wounds, our pain, to Jesus. Let’s ask Him to help us not to view our present or our hopes for the future through the woundedness of the past – although, of course, we can always draw from it as we learn from errors of judgement and the like.
This autumn, let’s think about treating the person in front of us, whoever it is, as Jesus treated people. Let’s get to know Him better, through His Word, and ask for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Is the Jesus you believe in the Jesus of the Bible? (Think about it!) Jesus shows us what God is like. He is all love, and all grace; but He wants us to put Him first, and trust Him. He is Almighty God, our creator. He has a good plan for you, and for me. But God’s ultimate plan is always to make us like Jesus.
For that, He may use whatever has happened in the past for our good and His glory – if we let Him. He has a wonderful knack of transformation, as we see in the Old Testament story of Joseph. But we need to bring it all to Him.
As we move into the autumn season, I challenge you to walk with Him more closely. Make Him your number one love. Whatever your own experience of ‘father’, if it was negative, don’t view God through that filter. Trust that He is a good Father who knows what’s best for you. Let Him surprise you with His love, kindness, acceptance and restoration.
*NB Forgiveness doesn’t mean staying in a potentially abusive or harmful situation.
Sheila Jacobs is an award-winning author, writer, editor and speaker. Single, she is currently serving as a deacon in her church, and a chaplain at a retreat centre. She is passionate about listening to God for others. Her new book, To Live Again has just been published by Darton, Longman and Todd.