When another person breaks relationship – cutting you deeply and stepping way over the line – what are you to do?
Consulting our map for forgiveness, you orient yourself in your journey toward reconciliation. Your finger lands on your coordinates: “unconditional love.”
“How can I exercise this kind of love?" "How can I love when it hurts so much?”
Even asking these questions tempts you to give up and forget the whole thing.
Let’s look at four practices of a grace-filled posture that can equip you for this ‘journey’.
This is a ‘posture’ of your soul that reveals your need for, and willingness to receive, God’s grace.
In this ‘posture’ we admit that none of us ‘have it in us’; we must receive grace or we can't do it. Dallas Willard describes this grace as “God acting in our life to bring about results beyond human ability.”
Let me introduce you to four dynamic invitations you can experience in this grace-filled posture.
Sometimes we may wonder if God really understands what we’re experiencing.
God revealed himself as Jesus Christ. That means that God has experienced first-hand insults and mockery, betrayal and injustice, threats and abuse. Be assured he understands our experiences (Hebrews 4:14-16):
We do not have [a high priest] who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
In this posture you approach the One who understands, and who provides the needed grace – in this case, the grace to love an offender.
We’re often quick to recognize the fault of others, and slow to see our own.
The grace-filled posture draws us to pray Psalm 139:23-24:
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous [hurtful (NASB) or offensive (NIV)] way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
In the stillness, wait for his answer. Is there something of your attitudes, words or actions that he brings to your attention?
This aspect of the grace-filled posture leads toward:
At this point, you may begin to take the place of those Peter speaks of; those being treated unjustly (1 Peter 2:13-25). In this context, Jesus is our example (2:20-23):
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
You are called not to retaliate but to entrust yourself to your Father with all the unresolved messiness and pain of the circumstances. In this you yield yourself to God, trusting him not only to set things right in the future, but also to provide his grace in the present.
Jesus experienced offences and his posture was one of unconditional love toward the offenders.
For you to do the same, as a follower of Jesus, requires God’s grace active in your life to bring about results beyond your human ability. In this grace, he empowers you to love an offender without condition.
Loving someone who has offended you transforms you from a re-actor into a pro-actor. Instead of re-acting in anger and bitterness toward an offender, you begin pro-acting in God’s own healing and life-giving way. This was explored in greater depth earlier in “Love is Active.”
We began with the question, “How can I exercise this kind of love?”
Hopefully, this grace-filled posture points you in the direction you need to travel.
Photo credit: Dreaming in the deep south via Visualhunt.com / CC BY
Helpful resources provided to 'living theology' subscribers.YES!