CHOOSING TO REACT WITH GRACE
Recently, on a drive through North Carolina, a very rude driver cut me off on the highway for the very important need of gaining one spot in slow traffic.May I be honest? Everything within my flesh wanted to lay on the horn for as long as it took to feel avenged of this horrible, life-altering act by this thoughtless driver. That may be a bit melodramatic, but it really did aggravate me. However, sitting next to me in the car was the paragon of patience, my wife. So, I extinguished the flame in my heart, lest I upset her. I was rewarded when she commented, “I am proud of you; that guy was driving dangerously!”
As the Lord often does, at least in my life, the next morning I found myself reading this amazing verse as part of my morning study.
Isaiah 30:18 And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.
The Holy Spirit spoke to me and I stopped to ponder the meaning. There are so many times that my life deserves immediate judgment, but God makes the choice of dealing with me graciously and with mercy. God often commands me to “wait” but there are times where He “waits” as well. God would be justified to deal with me immediately for the many times that I have grieved Him, but He graciously and mercifully deals with me, allowing me time to grow. It is not that He is unaware of my sin or that He is in any way weak toward sin - His Son paid an awful price for me - but He does understand that I am dust, and His indwelling Holy Spirit can convict, instruct, and assist me to change. Let me share three lessons the Lord taught me that morning.
The presence of my wife impacted my behavior.
I wish I could tell you that I would not have laid on the horn that day had I been by myself, but I am not sure that would have been the case. There was the consideration in my mind that I did not want to grieve my wife, who knew the guy was wrong but would not have chosen to react in a negative way. Now, it is not wrong to blow the horn in warning; but the deed was already done, and the horn would have been evidence of my anger, not impending doom. It was to satisfy me, not to meet a true need. Let us be reminded that as believers the Holy Spirit is always with us and is grieved by so many things we accept into our lives. Listen to the words of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:30-32 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
Being gracious is ultimately more satisfying than reacting in anger.
Oh, it would have felt great to let it all out for the moment, but it would have led to conviction, introspection, and confession later. In the long run, reacting with grace allowed me to let it go and not suffer any consequences to my testimony or my conscience. In a sense I was “exalted!” Now, not as if I were the Lord, but I occupied a higher space by being gracious than I would have had I let my flesh control my reaction. Reacting in a selfish way never accurately reflects the Lord and always grieves the Holy Spirit. We must learn to make the choice that God does: the choice of a gracious reaction.
Graciousness better demonstrates the Gospel than judgment does.
Oh, how I wanted to judge that other driver, and he deserved it! But the far greater demonstration of the love of Christ is in our forbearance rather than our judgment. That is a lesson that I must work on learning over and over. The Gospel is the good news that sinners who deserve hell can be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ and reconciled to the God that they trespassed against. That is exactly how we are to demonstrate the Gospel to a lost world, when these types of moments arrive. The world needs a living demonstration of Jesus as He stood before the High Priest, before Herod, before Pilate, and on the cross. Who, when He could have lashed out and avenged Himself, chose to react in the greatest example of grace the world has ever seen!
Turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, putting ourselves second, and refusing to avenge ourselves is not a lifestyle any of us in our flesh would choose; but we are believers. It is the path that the footsteps of Jesus took and in which we are to follow.