Grace is not so much any one action or rule or attitude, but grace is more of a story about broken people being loved and healed.
Let me tell you about my first pastor. When I first came to church over ten years ago, I was a stubborn thick-headed horny atheist who was looking for hot Christian girls. I hated the sermons but I kept coming back: because there was something about this pastor.
He endured with me. I asked him tons of annoying questions about God and the Bible, but he answered them patiently. I screwed up a lot: I slept with a few girls in the church and confessed them all, but he never flinched. He called me and texted me when I never replied. He bought me lunches, dinners, books, and sent cards to my house. He spent hours praying for me. He never once lost his temper with me.
Over time, I realized how much of a jerk I was to him. I didn’t listen; I was late all the time; I got drunk and went to strip clubs on Saturday nights before strolling in hungover on Sundays; I hardly asked how he was doing. BUT: he was endlessly loving. And the grace of this man completely melted me. I’ve known him now for thirteen years, and there’s no way I could be the person I am today without him.
I remember small moments. When one day I was horribly depressed, and he wrote me a letter right in front of me. When I got out of the hospital from swallowing a bottle of pills, and he listened without judging. When I was sobbing hysterically one day and he gripped both my hands and told me, It’ll be okay. God still loves you and He will never stop.
Even now, my eyes glisten and my heart swells at his sacrifice. His grace fundamentally ripped away my selfishness and disturbed my ego. I deserved nothing and he gave me his all.
So often when I talk to a friend who keeps circling the drain of an addiction, an ex, a former life: I want to shout and shake them and slap them awake. But I know that only works for the short-term. Force and coercion never really internalizes or transforms. There is such an agony in patience, a heartbreaking hurt in watching others hurt, a crushing silence to wait until they hit rock bottom.
Yet we must wait on the other end. We must have open arms and a wellspring of grace when they have been spent dry. We must not say, ‘I told you so.’ We must still tell the truth, not in superiority, but with teary eyes and shaking hands. Don’t give up: because maybe you’re all they have. All the long while, be the voice of healing. Cheer for them, and say the thing that no one else has told them: ‘You’re so much better than this.’ Believe there is still yet hope, for God is sovereign and He is still in the business of rescue.
Have grace for those who are not gracious. Otherwise they may continue in their direction: and you might be the only one who can show them another way.
What we soon see is that grace is costly, requiring your very soul to lift others up. You almost have to absorb the pain for them to really get it, for them to see what they are really doing. It’s a substitution: your life for theirs. It’s exactly what Jesus did for us. Trying to help in any other way would be shallow, temporary, dismissive, counterintuitive, and pampering. But real love requires your everything, and there’s still no guarantee they will really receive it. We are laying down seed in scorched earth for the slim chance of impossible fruits.
This is how Jesus wept over Jerusalem. This is how he grieved over an entire generation of faithless people. This is how he loved his very own murderers. We can’t really do any less.
Even in our foggiest confusion, we come to our Father knowing He will not crush us, condemn us, or cast us out. He welcomes all questions. Try telling a typical Christian you doubt and they will lecture you; try telling a typical atheist you doubt and they will showcase you; tell God those feelings and He will understand you.
Be patient. Not all of us understand what you’re saying when you think you’re helping. Start from zero and walk us through what you mean. You might see the solution very clearly, but that probably took you years of sweat and blood; no one can get that in a single sitdown setting. Be gracious; be gentle; become the other person.
Don’t worry, friend. They may lie about you, mock you, hate on you, and drag your name through mud, but you are not built on what they say anyway. The truth always comes to light, and your demeanor through it all says more than words can. Let truth win.
Lets say, you have a young friend who is in the church, but has been making REALLY bad decisions. And at least from appearance, they are doing so with not a bit of remorse or thought or care. And this friend isn't even open to being talked to about it or honest, if you try you will get either a laugh or a "it doesn't matter". And, you feel both angry and confused because a while ago they showed signs of faith growing, and also sad and scared for them. Whats the godliest way to handle this friend
The godliest way to handle your friend is to handle yourself.
I’m not being cute. Your desire to love on your friend is admirable and noble, but it will quickly become about control and results if your expectations escalate.
No one can ever, ever, ever make someone fall in love with Jesus. You already know that, but because the default mode of our heart is self-righteous pride, we make our influence more sovereign than God. This results in disappointment, frustration, anger, manipulation, pressure, and all around discomfort for both you and your friend.
Of course you have good motives, but they’re buried under a lot of religious standards. You want your friend to repent, to care, to be honest, but even if you held a gun at their head, what will that do? God wants your friend’s repentance more than you do and is endlessly more patient.
Last night I read these verses in 1 Timothy 1 and almost wept, because they described me perfectly:
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
If God has been so patient with us, we better be patient for our friends. Like uber-super ridiculous unreasonably supernaturally patient. That requires tons of prayer, self-examination, and preaching the Gospel to your face like you really mean it. If your friend acts out and you overreact, you better cut the root of your own pride or you’ll hurt the both of you.
Be there for your friend as a friend. Hang out, talk, have wide open arms, laugh together, be understanding, pray, speak the truth but love on them most of all. When your friend hits rock bottom at the end of their sin-season when their soul has been dried up and spent, they will come to you first.
That’s unless you’re the “I-told-you-so” guy, in which case they will go to some depraved source of info to further the sin-spiral. Love this person like God loved you: through every thick and thin, in spite of everything, never condoning but always compassionate.
What then are we to do about our problems? We must learn to live with them until such time as God delivers us from them. We must pray for grace to endure them without murmuring. Problems patiently endured will work for our spiritual perfecting. They harm us only when we resist them or endure them unwillingly.
- A.W. Tozer (via ourfullawakening)