Grace is giving others what we have been given, not what they "deserve." Jesus makes this crystal clear and he only needed one word to do it.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:9-13 ESV
The word as is a lowly servant in English grammar, but it plays an important role in John's gospel. It points us to Jesus' love and then to those to whom we give it. The word itself means "even as" or "just as." Jesus is saying:
Love others even as I have loved you.
Love others just as I have loved you.
How has Jesus loved me? With a love that comes free of charge and marked by great sacrifice. I must remember this for I am prone to love them as they have loved me.
Have they treated me wrongly? I can fight fire with fire.
Are they giving me the cold shoulder? I can put on my winter coat.
Did they give me "a piece of their mind"? I'm going to give them a piece of mine.
Did they love me poorly? Okay, they are off my Christmas list!
But then I see that pesky little word as and I realize that Jesus does not leave me options for paybacks or halfhearted love.
I want to object. "Surely I'm justified in feeling this way, Lord. Look how they are treating me." But I know that reasoning falls flat when I remember how people treated Jesus. It carries even less weight when I think that it was my sin that put him on the cross.
How then do I move from paybacks to grace? The answer is Jesus. He is our Savior (John 14:6) and our strength. As we abide in him we discover that strength.
If I am dwelling on the actions of the person whom I think deserves my anger, I will love them properly. If I am dwelling on my ability to love them, I will love them properly. But when my heart and mind remain fixed on Jesus . . .
on what he has done for me on the cross,
on his surpassing greatness,
on the power he provides,
then I am able to love just as Jesus has loved me.
This is good news for I will have many places to show love today: at work, in my family, and as I move about my circle of relationships in my city.
When it comes to choosing payback or grace, Jesus does not leave me an option: "Love them as I have loved you." This is hard to do . . . until I rememer he himself gives the power to do what he calls me to do.
Where do you need to give grace today?