Several years ago I read the book: What’s so Amazing about Grace by Phillip Yancey.
In the book the author, Phillip Yancey tells his own struggle with the church.
At one point in the book Yancey writes how he left the church because he could find so little grace in the church but later returned because he could find grace nowhere else.
Above everything else a church should be about grace. Even if the grace, at times, feels small compared to God’s super-abounding grace, nevertheless a church should be about the work of grace.
What is this work of grace that the church should be about?
Today’s Bible reading from Luke defines the kind of grace the church should always be working towards.
Loving our enemies.
Doing good to those who hate us.
Blessing those who curse us.
Praying for those who hurt us.
Giving to those who ask of us.
Not judging and forgiving those who have wronged us.
This is grace.
I would say now that this is almost impossible unless you are some sort of a saint.
Because Jesus asks us to do the opposite thing from our natural inclinations. What are our natural inclinations?
Well, it is to hate our enemies. It is to curse those who curse us. It is to judge those people we do not like. It is to hold a grudge. It is to take revenge when we have been wronged in some way.
Again, just like in the beatitudes Jesus turns things upside down.
Jesus is trying to teach us something very important here. We are to think and to act as God thinks and acts. Even though we do it imperfectly this is the path, this is the road that God calls us on.
This is the road that Jesus invites us to travel on in life. It is not an easy road to travel on. In fact, Jesus said that the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life.
But do not be discouraged here because we have someone who has already walked this road. It is our savior. Jesus has already walked that difficult road in order to show us the way.
In his life Jesus loved his enemies. On the cross he asked God to forgive those who crucified him. In his life Jesus did good to those hated him.
In his life Jesus blessed those who cursed him. In his life Jesus loved all people the tax collectors, the thieves, and all kinds of sinners.
In this same way we are to be loving, kind, and merciful as Jesus is loving, kind, and merciful.
Before I end my sermon for today I would like to give to you some practices that I do to help me to follow this teaching from our Lord.
Clearly, in my own life I fall way short of these teachings from Jesus so there are certain practices that I do in my life in order to help me to follow these teachings.
I continually fall short am I am at the mercy of Christ’s mercy for me.
But as I catch myself in making a judgement there, holding a grudge here, making a hurtful comment there I come back to these teachings from Jesus again and again.
Let’s take the first teaching here. In verse 27 we hear: I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who hurt you.
Now for the next seven days would you try this?
Think about the people in your life who you may be holding a grudge against.
Maybe it is your uncle you cannot stand. Maybe it is a co-worker who finds the perfect way each and every day to annoy you. Maybe it is a parent or a sibling that you just cannot seem to forgive for something that they did to you maybe years ago.
I am not saying here that you need to dismiss the pain they caused you. Especially, if it was severe. What I am inviting you to do is to find peace by forgiving.
When you forgive someone and when you let go of a grudge you find a peace that passes all understanding.
Do you want to know true peace? Would you like to experience the peace of God… than do as God does…do as God does… forgive.
For the next week would you try this and see how much peace you can feel and receive from this exercise.
First, start with one person that you may be holding a grudge against.
Think about that person and then write that person’s name down in a journal or a notebook. This person could be someone who recently hurt you or maybe someone from your past.
You might also want to write down why you are upset with this person in your journal.
Also, don’t tell the person you are upset with about this. Just keep it to yourself. They don’t need to know that you are doing this. Remember right now this is not about them it is about you finding the grace to forgive.
Next, find a quiet place, close your eyes, and let the person come to your mind. Feel the anger and the pain. Think about why you need to forgive this person.
Then seek to forgive and to love. Now see that person in front of you and instead of feeling anger and pain try feeling feelings of compassion and grace towards this person.
Ask God for the grace and the courage to forgive this person then ask yourself: What did I learn from this person? How was this person a teacher in my own life?
Think about what lessons you might derive from the situation, as painful as it might have been and still is. How can you grow from this?
What new perspective do you now have on life?
Then go back to thinking about the actually person who you have this grudge against. Think about what pain or suffering they may have experienced in their life.
Do this for about ten minutes.
Then when you are done do what they teach in the recovery movements, “Let go and let God.” For now let it go and then come back to it the next day and repeat the process.
Write the person’s name down in your journal. Write down again what you are upset about. Close your eyes, picture the person in your mind, feel the anger, and feel the pain.
Then Forgive into love.
Choose to forgive the person. Think about how you might grow from this situation. Have compassion for the other person. Say I forgive you and then let go and let God.
Again repeat this the next day.
Try this for seven days. Holding onto grudges and anger is one of the biggest factors in preventing us from feeling peace and joy.
New studies out on forgiveness have even shown that those people who forgive have higher alpha brain waves.
These are the brain waves associated with creativity and happiness.
Jesus said, “Forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you.”
Can we give this gift to ourselves? Can we forgive as God forgives us? Can we be merciful as God is merciful to us? Can we show grace as God shows grace to us?
When the church is living into these questions then the church is truly being the church.
The Spirit of God cannot work in a place where there is no love, grace, and forgiveness because God is love, grace, and forgiveness.
Jesus gave to us the ultimate example by the way he lived his life.
As we journey through life may we learn to forgive, to show grace, and to give for the measure we give will be the measure we get back.
And as you do this remember this… forgive yourself.
I can be really hard on myself.
I forget to forgive myself and to receive the gift of forgiveness from God. So remember to also forgive yourself.
All who for love of God forgive.