I once heard a pastor start a sermon by asking the question, “When you look in the mirror, do you see a forgiving person who extends grace to people in their presence and in their absence, or do you see a person who speaks negatively of people, holds grudges, and makes sure people know you are not extending any grace to them because they have wronged you in some way?
The question pierced me.
The pastor challenged those of us in attendance to listen—really listen—to the benediction given at the end of each service, the common one Paul often used in his many parting words in his New Testament letters: “May the Lord be with you in spirit. And may his grace be with all of you” (2 Timothy 4:22). This is the benediction we all respond to weekly with a hearty “amen.” Perhaps you do, as well.
But how many of us carry God’s grace into our classrooms and workspaces and homes? We blame. We accuse. We hold grudges. We judge people’s decisions. We let pass opportunities to make someone feel good. We seek out and spread gossip about people instead of empathizing with their plight and losing sleep over how to help them.
But do we consciously look for ways to show grace to others daily in and out of their presence? In Colossians 4:5-6, Paul encourages Christians to “live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”
We show grace to others because Christ first showed grace to us. Ephesians 2:4-10 says, “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
This last line resonates in me. God created us “anew” in Christ Jesus. He created us and then he created us “anew” through Jesus’ death and resurrection—kind of like an upgrade. We are renewed and as Christians are filled with the Spirit. Spirit-filled people extend grace to others. They forgive them. They honor them. They encourage them. They build up their reputations. This is called kingdom-building.
The second half of this sentence is also significant: “…so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God has a plan for your life. He gave you grace and he offers you his Holy Spirit so he can use you to build his kingdom. It’s as simple as that. We do it in our neighborhoods and schools and workplaces. We do it in our families.
As part of the practical application of the Christian Journey column, I would like to defer to Barbara Pachter, author of “Power of the Positive Confrontation,” in which she outlines ways we can employ Paul’s wisdom in Colossians when he urges Christians to allow their conversations to be gracious. Pachter outlines six ways to verbally show grace under pressure at our workplaces:
Let It Go. Understanding that people are under a lot of pressure can allow one person to cut another some slack. Sometimes it can be best to do or say nothing—just listen. Often the other person later will apologize for the outburst.
Agree with the Comment. A good defense is the best offense. People can agree with what someone says but add additional information that turns the comment around, such as, “You’re right. We did put a lot of people on this project because it’s important to get this information out to our customers at this time.”
Ask for Clarification. Ask questions or make comments to get more information: “Why are you saying that?” “Help me to understand what you mean by. . ..” “Tell me more about your concern.” “Are you saying it was. . .?” Probing makes someone less likely to appear wounded by the attack, and it also buys the person time to calm down and collect his or her thoughts.
Acknowledge What Has Been Heard. First, acknowledge what was said: “I understand your frustration” or “I hear what you are saying.” Then use the word “and,” not “but,” to provide clarifying information, because using “but” negates what comes before it. A defusing statement such as “There may be some truth to that, and we are looking at the numbers” or “That’s interesting, and you may not realize that we’ve been looking at those numbers,” can also let the person know that he or she has been heard.
Respectfully Disagree. Be polite but firm. Someone can say, “I disagree, and here’s why . . .”
Postpone the Discussion. Sometimes it is best to talk to the person privately. Say something like, “You obviously have strong feelings. Let’s get together after the meeting so we can discuss this issue in more depth.” Get more articles to help you live out your faith, check out our free e-devotions, discover the NLT, and find just the right Bible at http://www.newlivingtranslation.com.
Ron DeBoer is a writer and educator who lives near Toronto, Ontario.