What is the measure of grace? There is an abundance of books on the subject of God’s grace, some of which I have read. And I have come to understand grace in theological terms. However, grace also applies to human relationships. It is the measure of that human relational grace that I want to take here.
When our enemy hurts us, we are told to “turn the other cheek” (MAT 5:39MAT 5:39
English: Good News Bible (1992) - GNB
39 But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too.
WP-Bible plugin). I have often pondered what Jesus meant by that. Was he talking about physical or psychological abuse? Does that apply to the coworker that we perceive is sabotaging our project so that theirs can succeed? I tend to think that Jesus saw physical abuse on the streets of Nazareth. When a Roman soldier came through town, by law he could demand anything of the people. If you complained, then more than likely you got the back of his hand across your face and the soldier just took the item away from you. Who would stop him? Yes, the soldier was being barbaric, and we would say that he was no better than the mugger who stops us today on the sidewalk. But Jesus knew that the way to respond was to change the heart of the soldier, not start a fight over a piece of bread. In a fight, you would more than likely just get killed, and the soldier would be that much more filled with guilt. When you turned the other cheek, the soldier would realize that you weren’t going to oppose him, and he would be left wondering why. That is grace in action.
You see, it is grace that enables our “other than by instinct” response to human situations. Without an understanding of grace, our responses would be “tit for tat” – i.e. violent and vengeful. And we all know about the cycle of violence, that it just spirals out of control. Wars have been started following a simple disagreement. With grace in our lives, we can “turn the other cheek” when provoked. We can respond with love for our enemy, and do the right thing to heal the situation. Our enemy may not always understand why we aren’t responding the way they would – i.e. they may expect us to be seeking revenge. But ultimately, they will learn to respect us, because they realize that we are seeking justice.
This is the work of Jesus on the cross. And it has a benefit in our everyday living. The measure of grace is the impact it has on our human relationships. It affords us a chance to be human beings who are more concerned with doing the right thing that exacting revenge. With finding justice instead of perpetuating injustices. With sharing God’s grace rather than hoarding it.
May your life be filled with God’s grace – i.e. overflowing and abundant!