Recently, my wife and I went out for a lunch together at a local restaurant. It was wonderful to spend some time together. What was not as wonderful was the discovery of a hair in my sandwich just as I finished eating the first half. The waitress was very understanding when I explained the situation and immediately went to get the manager. When she arrived, I could tell her defenses were up, as if she was holding a shield to protect herself from my frustration, even though I was not feeling that way. After she offered numerous apologies and the assurance that my meal was removed from the bill, I finally had an opportunity to speak. I told her, “It’s okay, mistakes happen.” She was dumbfounded for a moment, and then said, “Thank you, your understanding makes our job so much easier,” and with that her whole demeanor relaxed.
It would have been easy to spew out anger and frustration, but accidents really do happen, and the easy path is typically not the Christ-like path. Who knows how many people shared their anger with her before I arrived, or what was happening in the rest of her life. She did not need another angry customer, she needed to experience grace, love and forgiveness, just like we all do. It can be challenging to extend grace and forgiveness, but since we need it in our own lives and continue to receive it from God, shouldn’t we try to share it with others?
Jesus told a story about a man who owed his employer an excessive sum of money, an amount he could never fully repay. When he was brought before his employer he appealed for grace and in an unexpected act of love, his entire debt was forgiven. It is a wonderful expression of unmerited favor, and a beautiful illustration of God’s loving grace. If the story ended there, it would be great, but Jesus went on to tell how this man, forgiven of a great debt, received such grace only to search out a man who owed him a small sum, accosting him and demanding he repay the money immediately. His fellow workers were so disturbed by his actions they went to the employer to report what happened. The story ends with the employer calling the man “wicked” for receiving great grace and yet, being unwilling to share grace with others.
You and I receive great grace from God. We experience divine love and forgiveness, when we do not deserve it. God forgives our grand debt and then sends us forth to represent that same grace to others. It can be difficult to share, but when we recognize the great grace we receive, the difficulty seems to vanish, and we go forth to comfort others with the same comfort we received from God.
What happened in the restaurant was a small thing that required only a small sacrifice on my part. Considering the significant forgiveness I needed, and continue to need from God, it was the only reasonable response. I only wish I recognized it more frequently. Too often, I respond with my emotions, rooted deeply in a false view of what I am entitled to and a distorted sense of my importance. Like the man in Jesus’ parable, I celebrate God’s grace, only to withhold it later when it should have be freely given.
Grace really is too great a gift not to be shared. When we humbly recognize our need for grace, we can offer it to others in the same spirit and trust that God will use the moment to bless the giver as well as those who receive. With our attention turned outward, maybe we will see the “grace moments” all around us and lovingly share the amazing grace we love to sing about and receive. Then, others will have the chance to experience the gift with us.