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- Jacob Ninan
"All my life I have fooled around with the wrong things and now my whole life is a mess. I know I don't even deserve to be alive. But will You please take me to heaven?" All 'holy' people would say, "Absolutely not!" But this is essentially what the thief on the cross said to Jesus, and Jesus actually took him to heaven (Lk.23:40-43). That is called grace, the unmerited favour God shows to people who actually deserve hell for their sins. Even though it appears to be unreasonable to our thinking, it became possible for God because He had first taken our punishment on Himself (Is.53:5).
But even after we have received this undeserved kindness from God, we still find it difficult to extend it towards other people. We want them to receive from us only what they deserve, maybe in a little stronger measure. Unmerited forgiveness towards others appears to be an unreasonable concept to us when it comes to 'passing over' the sins they have done to us, even when we recognise and tell the story of God's passover. We think, "They don't deserve to be forgiven. They need to be taught a lesson. They can't be allowed to get away with it. They haven't even apologised to us!"
What does this show us except that we have not understood God's grace towards us? If we haven't, what is the basis on which we think God has accepted us? But grace is the only basis on which we can be saved.
It's not just about undeserved forgiveness. Any blessing or kindness that we receive from God is based on grace, something that we don't deserve. If we have health and ability to earn our salary, that is just another example of God's common grace which He extends to all people, irrespective of whether they are good or wicked (De.8:18;Mt.5:45). There is nothing we can claim as our right from God, but we can only thank Him for His unmerited mercies.
The more we understand this, the more it changes our attitude towards other people, including those who don't know God and those who we think ought to know better. It's not that we let everyone walk all over us or we show them no firmness of right and wrong, but all our attitudes towards others change when we first go through the recognition of God's favour, mercy and kindness towards us. It will affect the hardness of our heart, our unwillingness to make some allowance towards the others or to give them the benefit of doubt, our willingness to hear their side of the story, our acceptance of those who are different from us, our patience with those who are yet to catch up with us, and our awareness of how far we are from the likeness of Christ.
Isn't is very common that we take so much pleasure out of thinking of God's goodness towards us and spend very little time thinking of our attitude towards others? Yet both these are connected in God's eyes. He says if we think we love Him but do not love our brother we are very sadly mistaken (1Jn.3:10,17;4:20,21). Then we really don't love God as much as we think we do.