Saturday, February 25, 2012

Take Opportunities to Exhibit Grace, Part 2

After Dr. C heard what happened, he invited the girl's father into the privacy of his small home and listened to the story, I am told he said the following to the girl's father: “I'm sorry she doesn't know how to behave properly. Why don't you send her here [to school at the City of Hope—this girl is not in school at all] so that we can teach her?”

Z told me this story as we had chai together the next morning. His comment was, “You know, Dr. C. responds in such a Godly way.” Then Z told me another similar story. He said, “A few months ago a boy was caught stealing maize from our cornfield. He had only a small amount, maybe six ears. He was almost through the fence when he was caught and brought to Dr. C. You know what he said to this boy? He said, 'I'm sorry you do not know to ask. You don't have to steal from us. Stealing is wrong. (That is not a given in this culture.) Next time you are hungry, just come and ask for food.' And he gave the boy even more maize and some other things and let him go!” Z concluded his story with an absolutely beautiful smile.

Philemon teaches a similar lesson. Onesimus the slave has run away from his owner, Philemon, whom Paul knows to be a Christian. But then in Rome, Onesimus then meets Paul, becomes a Christian—a new man through transformation by the gospel. He also becomes a brother in arms to Paul, serving him while he is in prison. Paul knows that between Onesimus and Philemon, both professing Christians, there must now be reconciliation, so he writes the letter to Philemon, saying that Onesimus must ask forgiveness for running away, and that Philemon must forgive him and take him back with grace—and not just as a slave, but as an equal—a brother in Christ. Surely this is hard for both men, but for both of them it is an opportunity to grow in Christian virtue. Paul sees this, and behaves accordingly. He takes it not only as an opportunity for reconciliation, but also an opportunity for Onesimus to learn the humility of admitting wrong, taking responsibility, begging forgiveness, and attempting to make amends, and an opportunity for Philemon to learn the discipline of genuine active forgiveness and the lesson of unity and equality in Christ—equality of a learned man with slave—a totally counter-cultural lesson.

All of my adult life, even as I have had many positions of leadership, I have feared correction, conflict resolution, and confrontation. It's hard to tell people that they are wrong. But today I see it in a new light. Every conflict resolution, every correction, every confrontation is an opportunity for discipleship. It is an opportunity to exhibit grace. It is an opportunity to be Christ. For all parties, it is an opportunity to grow closer to Christ, and it is an opportunity for me to help them in those steps. So I resolve to strive to see these things this way when they came up. Clearly Paul did. Clearly Dr. C. does. As I see it, the biggest challenge for me will be to learn to do this as a parent. It is one thing to do it for an adult who can see that you are showing mercy, and focusing on demonstrating the gospel instead of focusing on making them behave correctly. It is another thing to do it for a rebellious four year old who doesn't even recognize (on a conscious level) the grace he is being shown.

Lord, thank you for teaching me this lesson. Help me as a leader and as a father to take each instance of correction as an opportunity to exhibit grace while still acknowledging the wrong. That's what you do for me. Help me do it for others. I need your help, because this is going to be hard...


  1. Wow what an incredible story. I want Dr. C's wisdom. Lord May I please!
    Thank you for sharing. I find I am opposite with kids that God has given me so much wisdom and grace to correct and help show the right way. With adults I panic and do not do well . . . and GOD WANTS ME TO BE A LEADER?!? AHHHH. Thank you again for your posts I just eat each one up. I love them. And I am sorry for being such a baby about your "To Be Continued" it really isn't that bad at all and I need to learn more patience. Thank you again for everything. I am blown away by our God.
    Love to you guys,
    Mrs. Butler

  2. I was thinking a lot about this story yesterday...before reading the second installment. I encountered an incident where someone was stealing from us and questioned how to proceed, keeping in mind showing grace. I agree with mrs. Butler :) that it is harder to confront adults sometimes. Contrary to my character, I did call out this person on their wrong saying I would gladly have given them what they had taken if only they had asked first. My actions fall short here as I did not continue and show them grace. The result being that they were left feeling offended and maybe bitter and I am left feeling guilty. I pray that I will see them again and it is not too late to offer grace...

    Incidentally just after this encounter, I went to kroger where I unintentionally almost stole some apples and avocados. They had rolled behind a.'s carseat in the shopping cart and I had missed them. Of course I went back inside and paid for them. But it made me reflect on the situation above that happened less than an hour before. Did my need for grace help me to realize someone else's need?