Sometimes it is easy to look around and find people or situations to criticize. We voice our opinions, rail against injustice, and spew out harsh words because we believe we can solve all the problems.
We also want the world around us to operate in a way that makes us comfortable. We desire total control.
Occasionally, we vent our anger and let others know how we view their lives. We want them to line up and live their lives according to our rules.
We feel smug when we think we have all the answers.
I know. I’ve been there.
However, when we are blindsided with personal trials, our haughty and self-righteous tendencies evaporate. We learn the true meanings of compassion, humility, forgiveness, and mercy. How to walk in love and extend grace to others. How to surrender total control to the Lord.
Recently I found myself in a horrible predicament, torn between two people I love very much. I think both of them had the right to be angry and to feel betrayed and hurt. I wanted to find a way to intervene, to help them reach an understanding, to get to a position of peace.
Would there ever be a place of grace and mercy for each of them? I saw pain, sorrow, regret and fear on one face. An expression of panic that said nothing could ever make the situation right again; that peace would never be found.
The other person’s face reflected frustration, hurt, rage, hardness, and despair.
Reconciliation? Not in this lifetime, I thought.
I didn’t think there would ever be a time when they could walk into the same room without tension building and everyone walking on eggshells around them. The issue could explode and destroy their relationships with everyone around them.
What could I do? Was there a way for me to step in without losing? Even though I saw the offense, I also understood the need for forgiveness.
I felt stuck. I didn’t see a way to move forward.
So, I prayed, asking God for wisdom.
Then, I read the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (see John 8:1-11).
I tried to imagine myself in the middle of the scene. What would it feel like from both sides – the guilty one and the judgmental one?
On one side, I would be the one face down and sobbing, scared and shivering because I have been forced to confront my shame, my degradation, my sin. The city’s elite surrounding me, watching with scowls on their faces. Glad it’s me and not them.
Or maybe, I’m on the other side, part of the jeering crowd. Gleeful and feeling self-righteous because I caught someone red-handed, and I can’t help myself. I rail and jeer right along with the rest of the group. Shouting my judgments and hoping the sinful person will get it.
But wait a minute. It feels like someone is holding up a mirror in front of me. He asks me why I have the right to sit in the judge’s seat. Why I feel the need to point out the wrongs I see in someone else’s life. Is my life perfect? Am I without flaws, shortcomings, sin?
I want to say, “But…” and I can’t. My justifications get caught in my throat. I consider the things no one else knows about, and I feel my own shame. I remember the times I begged for mercy, and I want to cry.
I see myself as I really am. Flawed? Yes. Broken? Yes. Forgiven? Yes!
Covered by God’s love and mercy, and understanding His grace is the only reason I’m not eternally condemned.
I have a decision to make. Will I extend grace? Or will I become rigid in my judgment?
The same words Jesus spoke to the woman’s accusers, He speaks to me, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).
This passage helped me realize that all of us are like the men who judged the woman and wanted her stoned to death.
When we allow God to purify our lives, He helps us see our true selves, and it can leave us feeling ashamed that our Maker sees into our cores. He knows that what is there is often shameful, degraded, dark and nasty. We realize that we need forgiveness because we have hidden and unconfessed sins.
If we were in the scene, we would also drop our stones and walk away because we know that we could easily trade places with the woman.
Thinking about the lesson in this story gave me peace about the difficult position I found myself in. I couldn’t take sides. I could listen, pray, and stay neutral. I could offer advice when it was asked of me, and I could share what I’ve learned about God’s grace over the years.
He will always remain faithful and get us through whatever trial comes our way. We may feel like we won’t survive, but when we keep our trust and focus on Him, He will help us each step of the way.
I’ll never say it’s easy, because living with chronic pain and illness has taught me how to endure in the face of hardship, despair, fear, and weariness. And that is to rely on God to shower me with love, grace, mercy, and strength.
And the most important lesson I can share is how the love of Jesus covers all sin. So, both people I love can receive forgiveness and rest in the power of Christ’s redeeming love. He will enable them to reconcile, and to extend His grace to each other.
It may take a while. There may be tense times when they need to hash thing out, but if they stick with it and keep Christ in the center, I’m sure they will find their resolution.
Finally, I have peace, knowing that the entire situation rests in the Lord’s hands.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to pray and remember the grace that Christ continues to bestow on me.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we come to You for help in our relationships. It is so easy to take sides and be judgmental, but You want us to walk in love. So, we ask You to help us and show us how to be peace makers and examples of Your grace and mercy.