Have you ever wondered why it is so much easier to receive grace than to extend it? I heard Ed Dobson speak recently saying the hardest part of living like Jesus for a full year was blessing and praying for those who persecute you. I've never been persecuted, not really. But even the opposition or criticism I do face, although quite mild, pushes me toward becoming a graceless person. It is so insidious!
What happens is, I get tempted to use all kinds of religious language to make me feel better about myself, casting myself as the poor, unfortunate, righteous victim of the evil attacks of the devil and his minions - or something like that. Whether I am right or not is beside the point now. The truth is I am hurting, and the only thing I can think to do is hurt back. Which of course makes me at least as bad as those who oppose, or persecute or criticize me. And my soul begins to decay.
I want grace for myself, but not for those who oppose me. They don't deserve it. I do. Never mind that this attitude reflects a lack of understanding of even the definition of grace. I want what I want.
But until I begin responding like Jesus, and praying for and blessing, loving, reaching out to and forgiving those who curse me or persecute me, all of my responses only serve to dig a deeper hole for myself. And if I do not respond like Jesus, one day not too long from now, I may find that I have dug the grave for my ability to truly, selflessly, unconditionally love anyone at all. My love would always thereafter come with strings attached, which of course is not really love.
So here's "The Heart of The Matter." I ache when I go through conflict. But my prayer is not so much to be delivered from it (although that would be wonderful!), but to be able to use it as an opportunity, by God's strength working through my weakness, to refine my ability to become a grace-filled person who lives and loves as Jesus did. It's so hard, and so worth it.