From my Notes – Pastor Ron Campbell
Grace is sometimes difficult to understand. We all want to receive it. The hard part is giving it. When we are wronged we want to settle accounts. However, there’s a real problem with that. There are so many things that just can’t be settled. Vengeance is like a boomerang. When it goes out, it comes back at you. Peace cannot be achieved until at least one person puts down their vengeance. It’s the only way to break the cycle.
Now, there is a time and place for arms. For example, we need our police officers. We need strong and courageous people to stand against tyranny, and at times we may even have to personally defend ourselves. What we don’t need are hostilities. They solve nothing. They serve nothing. They only destroy.
Grace is really hard for most Christians. We feel grudges, anger, and fear. However, grace is still the answer. It is grace that heals and helps us overcome, and grace that takes away the burden of our own sins.
So why is it so hard to give grace? Maybe it’s because we don’t really understand this thing called grace. What is it? What is it not? How do we apply it? How can we put down our weapons of vengeance?
Jesus modeled grace more than any other person in history. He paid in full for the sins of the whole world, past, present, and future, at his own expense. Jesus is the primary example of God’s grace, but it can be hard to relate his example to ourselves. After all, He’s Jesus. It would help to have an example of someone like us following Christ, showing us the kind of grace we are all capable of in Christ. There are many examples of this in the New Testament. Let’s look at Stephen, for example, in the book of Acts.
“Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.” Acts 6:8
This scripture beautifully defines Stephen for us. He was “full of God’s grace and power.” It was visibly obvious.
“All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” Acts 6:15
Stephen was the real deal, a true follower of Jesus Christ, and like Jesus, he was full of love, mercy, and truth. He was also courageous.
Stephen challenged the rejection of Christ with truth and reasoning. The thought of God’s love and grace being poured out through the cross to the undeserving was so repulsive to the religious leaders they couldn’t stand hearing it. Worse yet, Stephen tells them all that they are undeserving as well. The people lose control and take him out to stone him to death. What does Stephen do?
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”” Acts 7:59-60
In Stephen, we see the grace of God lavished to the extreme. We see grace on display in a normal person following Jesus. Like Jesus, Stephen prayed to the Father while dying, asking God to forgive them.
The grace Stephen offered was from the cross, not his own righteousness. Its power comes from God. It isn’t earned through self-righteousness. It is a gift. Stephen looked to Jesus as master and provider. The follower points to the master, not to himself. Stephen was filled up with God’s grace because he actively sought grace from God.
When we need to give grace, we must draw it from the grace we have been hoarding. It is our source from which to pull out grace for those who have wronged us. God has freely given it to us and it is free for us to give away. The atoning blood of Jesus Christ does not fail. His sacrifice is enough to pay the penalty.
We need to offer grace to others so we don’t become the bitter thing we hate. We want to rise above and reach for something better. Grace will change us, maybe even visibly like Stephen. Pray we all shine with such amazing grace.