Living More Graciously

One Sunday after church, I went into a Subway to get some lunch for Deb and me, plus another couple we were visiting. I was a ways back in line but I could clearly hear the man who was paying for his food loudly berating the two young girls who were working behind the counter. He was saying things like, “This is the worst sandwich shop ever! You totally messed up my order in the past! I can’t believe how poor this place is!” 

I thought to myself: Why did you come back here if you are so upset about it? And, since he was wearing a suit and probably came from a church service, What are the others in the restaurant thinking about Christianity right now?

It struck me that this was not a very good demonstration of the Christlike quality of showing grace to others.

At the time this happened, I was reading The Grace Awakening by Charles Swindoll. I was finding the book very inspiring and helpful. In light of the book, I had made it a personal goal to live more graciously. So this example really shook me up. I thought, Am I that way sometimes in my dealings with others? I sure hope not, because I want to show grace to others, not anger or a critical spirit. 

In Chapter 8, Swindoll addresses two strong tendencies that nullify grace. He observes, “we compare ourselves with others (which leads us to criticize or compete with them), and we attempt to control others (resulting in our manipulating or intimidating them).” 

Both of these can keep grace from awakening and flowing from our lives. 

I have to admit, the first tendency of being critical or judging others can be such a temptation from time to time. For instance, I was doing this about the man in the Subway shop. Yet we really aren’t qualified to judge! We don’t know all the facts, can’t read motives, are imperfect and inconsistent ourselves. 
Swindoll offers an example of how wrong we can be when we judge others. He tells of the time he was speaking at a summer Bible conference for a week. He met a friendly couple the first night that seemed glad to be there. He made a point to find them in the crowd each time he spoke. However, as the week wore on, he began to notice that the man fell asleep in every one of the meetings, about 10 minutes after he started speaking. This started to get to him by Wednesday of that week. He concluded that it was probably the wife who wanted to attend the meetings, and she had dragged him along! Swindoll confesses that it even crossed his mind whether the man was even a Christian!

After the last meeting on Friday night, and after the crowd had gone, the woman came up to Swindoll. She told him that attending that week had been her husband’s final wish. He had terminal cancer with only a few weeks to live, and the medicine for pain that he was on made him very sleepy. She went on to say it was his idea for them to attend the conference because “he loves the Lord, and you are his favorite Bible teacher.” Then she thanked him and left. 

Swindoll felt stunned and deeply rebuked, he says, and concluded that he must guard himself from judging others. Only God is qualified to be the Judge and Jury. 

I learned a lot from both examples. My applications are twofold. First, I’m asking God to help me not be critical or judgmental of others. Second, I’m seeking before Him to live more graciously and be a more positive reflection of Christ’s love in a hurting world.
Along with these applications, the Lord has reminded me of a very apt verse: “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (Colossians 4:6, NLT).
What’s your response? How have you struggled with one or the other of these grace-blockers in your life? Who in your life needs a word of grace today?