The message of the gospel is simple. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Our challenge is simply to give people a taste of what it means to be loved by God. When we love people deeply, they will experience grace that attracts them to the love of our heavenly Father.
Jesus was generous with people. His love toward people displayed that they were more important to him than anything they had done. You see, like grace, love covers people. Being generous with people means we dont take opportunities to expose them. We dont seek to shame them for what they have done. Who was it that brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus? It was the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees. Because of Jesus love and tenderness, more exposed than the womans sin was the absence of loving grace in the hearts and lives of the religious leaders.
Jesus spoke lovingly to the woman because she was what was important to him, not what she had been accused of. Grace isnt focused on a persons behavior but on their need. Her need was for forgiveness, so Jesus dispensed grace in order to help her experience what was needed, the forgiveness of her sin.
Grace lovingly points people toward the future they can have in Christ rather than recounting the dark details of the past. I dont condemn you. Go and sin no more, was Jesus prescription. Guilt, shame, and condemnation will cause people to retreat away from the grace of God, but generous doses of loving grace will propel people into the future and destiny God has for them. Loving grace says, Though you arent like me, I will love you. Why should it shock us that sinners engage in behavior contrary to the standards of holiness in Gods Word? Their actions merely reflect who they aresinners who have yet to know Christ.
I was on Facebook a few years back when my eye caught the post of a young girl I had known several years prior. She had been a part of a youth group at a church and had been pursuing the things of God. She was in college now. Her post seemed to indicate that she had gotten away from that pursuit as it was filled with all kinds of expletives. Well, righteous indignation rose up within me, and when I saw she was online, I thought, Im going to set her straight. I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit immediately say, No youre not. Love her. Grace her. Check in on her. So, I started the chat this way, Are you alright? Rather than slam her behavior, God allowed me to see that her behavior was a cry for love. She had a need, a need that loving-grace should respond to. She typed back, I guess you haven’t heard? No. Heard what? Im pregnant.
My heart was filled with loving compassion, and in that moment and in the following weeks, God gave me opportunities to let her know God loved her, that I loved her, and that I was praying for her. I became a listening ear rather than a condemning voice, and I am so glad. The last thing this precious young woman needed was some Christian pointing out what she had done wrong. She already knew what she had done. Because of loving grace, she chose Christ again, reconnected with a church, and found the support she needed to begin her life as a single, young mom. Transforming Hearts Transforming Lives!
Lord, please give me the opportunity to go out and grace someone in love today! Amen.
-Dr. Melissa Pratt, Pastor, Teays Valley Church of God, Scott Depot, West Virginia