Grace Over Expectationby Kristi Kloverhouse
Grace, the undeserved favor of God…
It is a word that, as followers of Jesus Christ, we hear and use in our daily lives. For some of us, we may use it abundantly. We sing about it, read about it, listen to sermons on it, and even name our children after it. But do we understand the true impact on our lives that those five letters hold? Even as a Christian with countless encounters and experiences, I am still learning. I am in a season of discovering grace – as a wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend. Isn’t that one of the beauties of being a Christian? We are always learning, discovering, growing. God has an endless bank of truths to share with his children on a daily basis. They can come slowly, prayerfully, but sometimes, these insights are offered at lightening speed, when we least expect them. We know it’s him, because we know his voice, and his messages don’t shake, they stick and encourage action.
Recently, he shared one of those truth-nuggets with me, and I’ll be honest, it stung a little. A lightening bolt of simple truth can do that sometimes — sting. Often, the Holy Spirit will deposit bits of wisdom into our spirit and we think, “Yes! So good!” Other times, his refining revelations can leave us thinking, “Ouch,” but we know in our heart of hearts that what he says is true and good and for our betterment as his beloved.
As I stood at the kitchen island the other day, recounting my offenses —I know, so Christ-like of me, huh? — he interrupted my pity party with one simple thought:
Your grace for them must be higher than your expectations of them. Only then can you step into unconditional love.
I didn’t like it. I wanted to stay grumpy. The things that I was enduring in certain relationships, the expectations that I had placed on people that felt far from met, had left me feeling justified in my disappointment of them. “But, Lord,” right? Even when we love God and love people, we find ourselves making excuses for why we feel a certain way about them. For me, I was using the Golden Rule as my justification. “I wouldn’t treat someone this way! I would do x,y,z! If they were really a Christian, they would…”
These thoughts are toxic and they carry with them the ability to cripple our ability to extend grace to one another.
My grace for them had to be higher than my expectations of them.
Expectations are natural. We all have them. It’s good to have them. They are synonymous with standards, at times, and we know that God’s standards are the highest that one can have. He has called us to holiness. There’s nothing higher than his holiness and there’s no expectation greater than what he wants from his children.
But, we fail. Sometimes we fail in small ways, and sometimes our failures ripple across decades, but that’s where his grace abounds. His grace is sufficient. His grace is unending, unlimited, undeserved, and unbridled.
So, my question in this season, is this: Lord, can you show me what grace looks like in my life? My expectations, while natural, can no longer be held above the reservoir of grace I have to give to others.
I am reminded so quickly now, when an offense starts to creep up, about the parable of the “unmerciful servant”. You know, the one who was forgiven an insurmountable debt, only to turn around and demand a lesser debt be paid by another? That story, coupled with the invitation found in Hebrews 4:16 has been so eye-opening to me: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find help in time of need.”
These verses are changing my prayers from, “Lord, did you see what they did?” to, “Lord, let me not be like that wicked and unmerciful servant that expected more from another than you have ever expected of me. And even when my expectations are natural and warranted, let grace prevail over them every time.”
Isn’t it a beautiful thing that we can approach the throne of grace with confidence, expecting to find mercy, because we know he is good and his intentions towards us are gracious and loving? If we want to be like Christ, we must step into that role of grace-giver. We need to be ready to hand out mercy freely — to our friends, co-workers, family members and even strangers that disappoint us along the way. It isn’t an act. It isn’t a forced response. It’s stepping into the role that is ours to take on as the merciful, gracious children of Jehovah. When we come to understand that it is our honor and privilege to not just be sons and daughters, but behave like his sons and daughters, we will change the world. “Love your neighbor as yourself”, “bless those that curse you,” they will become more than commandments that are difficult to adhere to at times. They will become our nature, as our nature looks more and more like that of Jesus.
Offenses are unavoidable. Let’s say you have just been offended. So, what should we do?
Bearing with One Another
When I think of what this means and next steps, I think that Colossians 3:12-17 breaks it down so perfectly for us. Let me break it down verse by verse.
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
You are his, and he loves you so much that Jesus died in your place. For that reason, being his son/daughter, you have the divine ability to walk in these attributes. The outfit is yours to put on. It’s who you are – compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient. Own it.
13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
Remember that wicked and unmerciful servant? That is not you! You are a son, a daughter. You are a reflection of the goodness of your father. You have been forgiven a great deal, and so, you have a responsibility and an honor to pass that same level of forgiveness out to anyone or everyone. It’s an honor to forgive. Be like your heavenly father and be ready to forgive. I’m preaching to myself here.
14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
Keep your grace and mercy at the ready and release others from having to meet your expectations. Love them instead.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Understanding your identity will leave you with a lasting sense of peace, one that won’t fade when the next blow comes. Realizing that you are a part of a whole and that God cares about how you interact with the rest of the body will ultimately shift how you see those other members of the body. You will be thankful for them. You will want to pray that they see their potential in Christ too and that God would be honored by their lives. Comparison and jealousy will fall by the wayside. You will be thankful for others, respecting their differences more, and you will be more mindful of the grace that has been extended to you.
16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Get in the Word of God. Not only is it truth, but it’s light. It illuminates things in our hearts that don’t belong there. Judgments. Grudges. Unforgiveness… Any issue can be dealt with through the Word. Don’t just read it to read it. Let the words of God inhabit your heart. Think about this – the intimacy and honor of our relationship… You are called to put on love, to wear all of these wonderful, holy attributes like the finest outfit that God has laid out for you every, single day. You’re given a free pass to give grace and mercy to others, as it has been given to you. You’re invited to let his truth soak deep into your soul, so much so that you become a carrier of it. And then, with all of this present, you are able to speak into the lives of others, even admonishing them when necessary, but because you are literally clothed in his attributes and your heart is drenched in his words, even a rebuke is given in love! You’ve released the expectations – they’re not accountable to you, just God. You’ve extended them grace, because you are a grace-giving child of Jehovah, and you are walking in love. Speak the truth in love, right? It’s possible now more than ever.)
17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
(And this is the easy part, because, wow, he just took your “ouch” moment and turned it into the most beautiful revelation. He took your offense and used it to develop a deeper understanding of who he is. And he just took your identity and gave it a grace-makeover.)
If you’ve dwelling on an offense today, release it. Release them to God and pray for more grace. Your grace for them must be higher than your expectations of them. Only then can you step into unconditional love.
Father, thank you so much for your grace. Thank you that you care that we grab a hold of what it means to be a grace-giving child of God. Thank you for loving us and extending grace and mercy to us while we were sinners. You tell us that where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. Let that be our character as well. Where sin and offense increase, let grace flow from us even more. Thank you for the revelation that unconditional love and grace cannot be separated from one another, and the only way to truly love our children, spouses, friends, family members, and even strangers the way you intended is through grace—unending, unlimited, undeserved, and unbridled grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.