Feb 18 - Extending Grace To Myself And Others

Extending Grace To Myself And Others - Family Matters Part 6

February 18, 2018

Luke 5:27-32

 

EXTENDING GRACE TO MYSELF AND OTHERS

Family Matters – Part 6

February 18th, 2018

Luke 5:27-32

 

If you were here three weeks ago, you might remember that I spoke about the way that negative messages about ourselves, whether coming from parents, family members, friends, coaches, teachers, supervisors or ourselves, can and will cause great damage to our self-esteem.

 

One of the ways damaged self-esteem, a damaged self-image, manifests itself, is through being proud or arrogant. 

 

Pride is the need to think of oneself as better than others.  Sometimes it is accompanied by a need to show them how much better, smarter, savvy, wittier, stronger, faster, more powerful we are than they. 

 

Life becomes a competition and we are bound and determined to be on the winning end, whether it’s in a race or an argument, regardless of the potential cost of doing so. 

 

At other times, pride is married to the need to control others, to have them do what we want them to because we know what’s best for them, what’s right, what should be done.  Everything will be just fine if others recognized that fact.  Or maybe we’re just bossy

 

When our pride is injured it will keep us from being kind and gracious, as we react to what we perceive to be a threat to our either overinflated or underinflated sense of self-worth.

 

Luke records multiple times when the Pharisees criticized Jesus because he spent time with what they considered to be “sinners,” including entering their homes and eating with them.  One such time is found in Luke 5.

 

27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth.  "Follow me," Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.  29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.       Luke 5:27-29

 

If you’ve read through the gospels, you will be acquainted with the reaction of the Pharisees and scribes.

 

 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law (scribes) who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"  31 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."                                                              Luke 5:30-32

 

We find the same complaint twice more in the gospel of Luke, once in chapter 15 (vv.1-2), which actually ends with Jesus telling the parable of the prodigal son, and again in chapter 19 (vv.5-7) in the story of the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus.

 

Now, by and large, the Pharisees were not bad people.  They were really intent on obeying God’s will as revealed in the Law of Moses.  In order to make sure that they would do so, they ended up discussion the implications of the Mosaic Law when it came to every conceivable life situation. 

 

In Jesus’ day, literally hundreds of years of debate had taken place and a large body of Pharisaic teaching had been recorded and accepted as authoritative and binding, even when it contradicted the Law of Moses. 

 

In some ways, the Pharisaic body of literature at the time of Jesus was similar to what would become Islamic Sharia law.  Sharia law came about because the application of the Koran was debated over 1,000 years, those debates included different schools of thought, and the result was many applications for day-to-day life.  However, Sharia Law, is a lot more stringent than the Rabbinic teaching.

 

One of the greatest problems that Jesus had with the Pharisees was their insistence that they knew best how to discern God’s will and so had the right to tell others in every detail how they should live their lives.  Jesus pointed out in no uncertain terms that sometimes their application of the Mosaic Law was simply wrong. 

 

For example, they set aside the responsibility of looking after aging parents by donating money to the temple (Mark 7:9-13).[1]  Or they taught that it is wrong if someone does something good, saves a life, or physically heals someone on the Sabbath day (Mark 3:1-6),[2] even though they fed their animals and pulled then out of a ditch on a Sabbath and didn’t consider it work. 

 

And when Jesus challenged their interpretations, they responded by making plans to have Jesus killed (Mark 3:6).  How dare he oppose them in public debate!  How dare he question their applications!  After all, they knew best because they were so pious.  Let’s get rid of this nuisance!

 

In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Jesus points out that the Pharisees were self-righteous and treated others, who they considered to be less pious, with contempt (Luke 18:9).[3]

 

Because of their contempt for non-Jewish people and Jews who were so-called “sinners,” worst of whom were the tax-collectors, the Pharisees felt that if someone spend time with those kind of people it would cause spiritual defiled or contaminated

 

Even though the Law of Moses does not comment on Jews having to segregate themselves from so-called “sinners” (or Gentiles), Pharisees nevertheless did just that and taught that any Jew who is at all concerned with following God’s will should follow their example.[4]

 

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So Pharisees refused to enter the homes of or eat with Gentiles and tax-collectors, nor would they invite them into their homes.  They wouldn’t even eat or drink in the homes of regular Jews, whom they referred to contemptuously as “the people of the land,” (am ha aretz) because those people may have prepared the food in some way that does not follow the Rabbinic traditions. 

 

Jesus was most upset with the Pharisees because they burdened the average Jewish people with huge lists of requirements, all the time looking down their noses at them because they weren’t as fastidious as themselves.

 

Pharisees were proud of their zeal for God, and they had forgotten that in God’s eyes they were no better than others. 

 

Jesus told them that they were blind guides who strain out a tiny insect but then swallow a camel instead (Matt 23:24). He told them that they are actually hindering the average Jew from entering the Kingdom of God (implied Luke 11:52).[5]  Jesus called them hypocrites (Matt 23) and blind guides (Matt 23:24).  He called them white-washed tombs (Matt 23:27), and even the sons of hell (Matthew 23:15).

 

Jesus and the Pharisees were different in their approach. 

 

And tax-collectors and sinners and“the people of the land” responded to Jesus because he spent time with them and he made it clear to them that God is just as much (if not more) interested in them, than in the self-righteous Pharisees or priests.  He made them realize that they are not disqualified from God’s love, as the Pharisees said they were. 

 

Jesus extended grace toward them- and so they were open to hearing a message of hope and forgiveness and reform.  Jesus spent time with those who recognized that they were far from perfect and who could, with God’s forgiveness and strength, work on bettering themselves.   

 

Extending grace = 1.focusing on the good and the potential for good within others, not their short-comings and mistakes

 

Accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.                                     Romans 15:7

 

That means we don’t simply write off people, think they are useless or bad.  Jesus warns us that the way that we judge others, and I think he meant in our hearts, so we too will be judged by God (Matt 7:1-2).[6]  We show little grace toward others, God will show little grace to us when it comes to the judgment.[7]

 

When it comes to the conflict that we experience in our homes and families, it may be good to work on accepting others and focusing on their good qualities, rather than their bad ones.

 

There will be some friction in every home.  No two human beings ever lived under the same roof without clashing, getting hurt, or being mad at each other from time to time.  If there is never any open conflict, it likely means that one person is totally submissive but inside seething with resentment, or that two people have mastered the art of extending grace to the other.

 

However, while some friction is inevitable, there are situations that will simply make it so painful that it is destructive. 

 

One of these situations is the attempt to remake the other person, to change them. I’m not saying that encouraging another person to better themselves is inherently bad in and of itself.  However, when we want the other person to be fundamentally different than they are, they and us are in for a world of pain.

 

Attempting to change another person is usually not only futile, it can actually be destructive if we keep nagging about one or the other character trait that we don’t like. 

 

Everything often starts off so perfectly and with so much happiness and hope and anticipation.  We promise to love, cherish and honour our spouse for the rest of our lives.

 

But then reality sets in.  He’s a slob and doesn’t pick up after himself.  She wears socks in bed.  He doesn’t replace the toilet paper roll.  She insists on squeezing the toothpaste tube from the center. He doesn’t communicate enough.  She’s too talkative. He likes health food, she doesn’t.  Or he likes junk food and she doesn’t.

 

1001 annoyances can lead to constant bickering and complaining, all of which is pointless when the other person doesn’t want to change. 

 

You never do this, you never do that, you always do this, you always do that.  Do me a favour, don’t tell someone they always or never do something.  It just isn’t true and it labels another person unfairly - and it is severely annoying - just saying. 

 

Of course we can speak about our differences or hurts from time to time, but to harangue another person, just keep harping about someone’s faults over and over and over again, constantly criticizing and complaining, only attacks the other person’s self-worth, in fact, it has the potential of destroying another person’s self-image and irreparably damaging the relationship. 

 

Someone might actually use anger or argument or criticism or complaining intentionally as a way of destroying another person, often with the intent to make themselves feel better or with the intent of controlling the other person into doing what they want them to do.

 

The reality is that constant complaint simply is a very negative and counterproductive way into forcing another person to reinvent themselves.  The actual result is resentment and hurt. 

 

Of course that doesn’t mean that we have to put up with everything, that we can’t set boundaries, that we simply take abuse, ... in fact, if someone is highly toxic and hurtful and abusive, it’s probably best to get out of their way, even stay out of their way, rather than to just sit there and take it. 

 

Some people simply take advantage when others are gracious.  They see the other person as weak and vulnerable.  God forbid that any Christian sees another person’s patience and forgiveness as permission to abuse them.

 

On the other hand, when we extend grace, we do so knowing that everyone, and I mean everyone, has some quirks, faults, annoying habits and poor ways of dealing with stuff from time to time.  Yes, some people struggle more than others, but everyone still struggles, including you and I.  None of us are perfect. 

 

If we take a good look inside of ourselves, our character and behaviour, we will find enough shortcomings to keep us busy for the rest of our lives, if that’s what we want to do.  So, as Jesus said, it would be more productive to work on our own big issues, the log in our own eye, instead of trying to fix another persons’ small issues (picking at the splinter in another person’s eye - Matt 7:3-5)).  

 

Another way that we don’t extend grace is when we simply won’t forgive when another person hurt us. 

 

Inevitably other people will irritate us, disappoint us, offend us, hurt us.  When we accumulate enough of those wounds, refusing to let go, we end up being cynical, angry, resentful and bitter. 

 

What did Paul mean when he said that we shouldn’t let the sun go down on our anger (Eph 4:26)?  Isn’t it choosing to let go of the hurt we’ve received by forgiving those who have hurt us before the day ends

 

If we are quick to find fault, always looking for petty faults and slights, we’re creating a huge gulf between us and the other person.  If we do this with our spouse, we are no longer loving, cherishing or honouring them

 

  • If we keep rehearsing negatives thoughts about others, it will make us miserable. 

  • If we are full of resentment, fear, suspicion and anger, it will kill our joy and happiness and sense of well-being.

  • If we dwell on the faults and shortcomings of others or the way they have offended or slighted us, if we constantly criticize and belittle, especially in front of others - we’re causing untold harm to the relationship.

  • If we are so resentful, bitter and hostile toward others that we shut them out, stop talking to them, no longer spend time with them, no longer communicate, we are also in the process of destroying a relationship.

 

If, on the other hand, we accept the other person, work on our own failings, be quick to forgive, control our sharp tongues, become kind and courteous, think about them positively, and speak about their good traits in front of others, then we will find that we not only get along better with that person, but with everyone else in our lives as well.  When we extend grace toward others, it makes us into better people

 

In a marriage, a sense of oneness comes from trusting the other person, from liking them and appreciating them.  In that kind of relationship, two people can communicate more freely and with kindness.  In that kind of relationship, two people can focus on a common purpose and plan. 

 

A rather simplistic statement is that a couple that prays together stays together.  Well, I think that can be true if a couple says grace together and are thankful not only for the food on the table, but also for all the blessings they have, for a roof over their heads, their family, and especially for each other. 

 

Extending grace = 2. modeling the character of God, who extends forgiveness, patience and kindness toward people

 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

 

Why?  Because God has extended grace, forgiveness and patience toward us. 

 

Extending grace = 3. treating others with kindness and respect

 

However you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and Prophets.               Matthew 7:12

 

The Pharisees did not treat the tax collectors or the people of the land with any kind of respect or kindness. 

Their attitude was by and large exactly in contrast to Jesus’ words, that God’s people are to treat others the same way they would want others to treat them. 

 

By the way, in order to treat others as we would want to be treated, we need empathy, so the ability to feel for another person, to put oneself into the shoes of the other person, as we would hope that others would feel for us, would at least attempt to put themselves into our shoes. 

 

A crass example of a lack of empathy is found in suicide bombers or mass murderers, like the man who, in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people in a high school there, including 14 students between the age of 14 and 18,[8] a teacher,[9] a football coach,[10] and the athletic director.[11]

 

Empathy extends to thinking about others and speaking about them behind their backs in the same kind, compassionate, courteous, and respectful way we would hope that others think about us and speak about us behind our backs.    

 

The Bible speaks literally hundreds of times both in the OT and NT about the law of reciprocity.  It is the Law of the harvest – sow wheat, reap wheat; sow barley – reap barley.  The apostle Paul speaks of this law in the choices we make, “don’t be deceived,” he writes, “you WILL reap what you sow” (Gal 6:7). 

 

On the one hand we can sow to evil, to an unwillingness to be gracious or forgiving, to harshness and ugliness and hate.  And that is what we will reap.

 

The expression in Hosea 8:7, that those who sow to the wind reap the whirlwind makes exactly that point.

 

  • Jesus said, those who use the sword, die by the sword. 

  • He said that those who won’t forgive, won’t be forgiven. 

  • The Psalmist says that those who dig a pit, will themselves fall into one (Ps 7:15). 

  • We read in Job that those who plow evil reap it (Job 4:8). 

  • Proverbs tells us that the one who sows wickedness will reap trouble (Prov 22:8). 

  • Paul says, that a person who does evil, will reap within themselves the penalty of their error (Rom 1:27).

 

In other words, whenever we do something wrong, whenever we speak harshly, whenever we judge unkindly, whenever we think poorly, whenever we fan the feelings of hate, whether we are aware of it or not, we reap in our conscience, in our mind, in our heart, in our lives, the negative consequences of these things.  They will make us pessimistic, negative, mean, and unhappy.

 

But of course the opposite is true as well. 

 

Hosea tells God’s people that when people sow righteousness, that is, right and good behaviour, then they will reap unfailing love (hesed).[12]

 

  • James tells us that the person who sows peace will reap a harvest of righteousness (Jam 3:18).  

  • Paul tells us that those who persist in doing good will harvest peace (cf. Rom 2:10). 

 

In other words, whenever we do, think, speak, what is positive, and good, kind, gracious, loving ... we reap the reward of it in our hearts, our conscience, our minds, our lives.  It will make us better people, happy, content, thankful and positive.

 

Don’t’ deceive yourself.  You reap what you sow.

 

Extending grace = 4. allowing God’s grace and love to heal me so I can conquer my own shortcomings

 

Tax-collectors by and large did not extend a lot of grace to themselves, because they did not extend a lot of grace toward others, and weren’t shown any grace as a result. 

Tax-collectors were despised by their fellow Jews because they not only collected the Roman tax (collaborators of the enemy and therefore traitors of their own people), but they also over-charged the tax so they could get rich on the backs of their fellow Jews. 

 

Subsequently, the Pharisees taught that the tax-collectors were equally hated and rejected by God, without a chance of redemption.  And the tax-collectors likely agreed with the Pharisees, which is why they did not think highly of themselves.  

 

And then Jesus begins to call Levi the tax-collector to become one of his closest companion and student. When in Jericho, he calls up to one of the chief tax-collectors by the name of Zacchaeus that he had to stay at Zacchaeus’ house.  But this time, it wasn’t just the Pharisees who thought that this was wrong.

 

All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.'"  But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."  Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."                               Luke 19:7-10 (NIV)

 

While “all the people” grumbled that Jesus had entered the home of a tax-collector, Jesus’ gracious presence allowed Zacchaeus to take away all the loathing and condemnation and rejection that he lived with on a daily basis, and completely reform his life.  Jesus comment that Zacchaeus is a child of Abraham is about as close to saying that Zacchaeus is accepted and loved by God. 

 

That is the power of grace appropriated and then extended, not just to others, but to ourselves. 

 

I think that a few years ago now I mentioned the Hoyts during a sermon.  Dick the father[13] and his disabled son Rick[14] competed in over 1,000 races between 1977 and 2016, including 257 triathlons, 72 marathons, and 97 half-marathons.  Dick would pull his son behind him in a dinghy during the swimming portion of a triathlon, he would bicycle with his son either in a contraption over the front wheel or, as his son got older, pulling him behind his bike in a special wheelchair; during the running portions he would push his son in a wheelchair. 

 

So a father, for the love of his son, did what some would consider impossible.  A son, born with cerebral palsy and other severe handicaps, who was written off by doctors as in a hopeless vegetative state as an infant, and as clearly unable to learn and communicate by educators, because of the love of his parents, did the impossible continuously, including graduating from high school and university and holding down a career, even though he is unable to walk or speak. 

 

I don’t care what kind of short-comings you or others may think you have - your heavenly father loves you so much that you can overcome whatever you think is holding you back. 

 

That’s not to say that when debilitating depression or illness hits that we shouldn’t seek out medical help.  Rick Hoyt needed tons of medical help.  But it means that you and I should stop beating ourselves up and instead see ourselves through the eyes of God's love and grace. 

 

What needs to change in the way I think in order for me

 

TO FOCUS ON THE GOOD QUALITIES RATHER

THAN THE FAULTS OF OTHERS,

 

TO EXTEND KINDNESS, FORGIVENSS AND RESPECT,

and

 

TO ALLOW GOD’S LOVE AND GRACE TO COVER ALL OF MY FAULTS AND CONQUER ALL OF MY SELF-DOUBTS AND FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY?

 

Are you extending forgiveness and grace to others?

Are you extending forgiveness and grace to yourself?

 

[1] And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and mother, and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’  But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God), then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother.  Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

[2] Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there.  Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”  Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.  He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

[3] To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ...

[4] In the Mishnah, anything associated with a Gentile was considered to defile or make unclean.  Therefore, if a Gentile entered the home of a Jew, the whole home would be considered unclean.  The same was true of the taxcollector (Toh. 7:6).  While the Mishnah does not refer to sinners, it often does to “the people of the land” (Am-ha’aretz).  When one of these common Jews entered a home, then “only” groceries, liquids and all pottery not covered by a lid become unclean (Toh. 7.5).  

[5] Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.

[6] Matt 7:2 - With the judgment you pronounce (on others), you will be judged (by God), and with the measure you use (to measure others), it will be measured to you (by God).

[7] See the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matt 18:21-35

[8] Alyssa Alhadeff, Martin Anuiano, Nicholas Dworet, Jaime Guttenberg, Luke Hoyer, Cara Laughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang,

[9] Scott Beigel

[10] Aaron Feis

[11] Chris Hixon

[12] Hosea may be saying that the person who does what is right and good receives God’s unfailing love.

[13] Born 1940, currently 78 years old

[14] Born 1962, currently 56 years old