My father used to tell me that Christians often err in two ways — on the side of legalism and on the side of licentiousness. Both extremes turn people off to Jesus. The first is grace-less living and the second is grace-abuse.
But oh, is it ever so hard to find that middle ground — to be grace-filled. A grace-filled person understands that she is a sinner saved by grace but still prone to sin, yet able to have victory by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the grace which God supplies.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10 NASB)
A grace-filled person is also a dispenser of grace to others – one who chooses to love others, unconditionally accepts them (flaws and all), and commits to seek their highest good.
Through the years of discipling other women, I have, on several occasions, erred on the side of legalism. I have been a judge dispensing hypocrite. There have been instances when someone will open up to me about a sin they are struggling with or the same problem they keep repeating and I will think to myself, Really? Why haven’t you graduated from this error?
But so very often, God uses marriage and parenting to remove the Pharisee in me. My husband corrects me and my childen correct me. And my daily dealings with them remind me that I don’t have any right to cast the first stone at anyone. When I found out that a woman I am discipling is pregnant for the second time with the same boyfriend who got her pregnant the first time, I was tempted to lecture her and give her a sermon on purity and obedience. But God told me to hug her instead and tell her that we should get together one-on-one. She cried when I hugged her. She knew she made a mistake. She did not need me to humiliate her. When people are in sin, they need God’s grace, and we need to dispense that grace to bring them back to the Lord. This is different than saying that sin is okay. It is saying, “hey, we are all sinners and we all need Jesus to change and transform us.”
The bible tells us…
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5 NASB)
But I will tell you what my bigger struggle is. It is judging my husband. I can be judgmental towards Edric. With others, I have learned to be careful about what I say and understand where they are coming from. Yet, with Edric, there are instances when that scornful, judgmental me resurrects and sticks out it’s ugly head. I bring out the stones. I start hurling them (most of the time in my head, but still…)
Just last night I was irritated because Edric asked me to get him food when I was about to sleep. What? Argh! How can he be so insensitive and so helpless?! Doesn’t he care that I am about to hit REM?! I would not ask him to be so inconvenienced for me!
He was probably expecting a nice sandwich, but it was 10:30 pm, and I did not have the energy to make something. So we went to the refrigerator together and I let him pick out what he wanted from the visible options. He said he wanted yoghurt and pineapple. He took the yoghurt and went back to the bedroom, and I brought him the pineapple and a fork. I settled back into bed beside him, and he jokingly said something like, “Wow, I didn’t know you could eat yoghurt with a fork.” He was kidding around but the translation was, “I also need a spoon. Please go get me one.”
I dramatically threw the covers off and went back into the kitchen. Grumble, grumble, grumble. I think I even said, “You treat me like a slave.” I was partially kidding, but I wanted to say it aloud so I did. The spoons were twenty inches away from him when he got his yoghurt and he didn’t bother to take one! Come on!
In the meantime, Edric was still on our bed waiting for me. I chucked the spoon onto the pillow beside him and jumped back in bed, turning to the other side.
Lord, what are you teaching me? Am I under spiritual attack because we are giving a talk about marriage this weekend? Why do I get so irritated when Edric asks me to serve him? Why don’t I delight to be a helpmate to him in this way?
The answer was simple. When I am reactive towards his requests for service, I JUDGE HIM. I think he is being insensitive, unkind, selfish, and unloving when he asks me to do things that are inconvenient…like massages when I am really tired, or water when I am about to go to bed, or last minute help on ministry activities or errands which become my burden because they were not handled ahead of time…
Last night, after I served him with such a bad attitude, he was so sweet and tender towards me. He hugged me. I did not deserve a hug for all the vile thoughts that I had been thinking. And I realized that he really likes my attention and company, and he really likes to be served by me. It makes him feel loved and respected.
So what is my problem? What is the “log in my own eye”? I am a selfish hypocrite. I don’t like to be inconvenienced by him. I like him to take care of me but I don’t like it when he asks me to take care of him when it requires effort.
This morning, I started to think of all the ways that Edric is inconvenienced to take care of me and the kids. He works hard everyday, he tires himself out, he deals with the stress of financial provision, trouble-shooting business problems, and leading the family. And these are responsibilities he chooses to bear with faithfulness and commitment. He has never complained about having to do these things.
Well, it was humbling to realize this, and I felt stupid. He came home from an incredibly tiring day hoping to hang out and possibly get a 10:30 pm meal. All I offered him was yoghurt and some pineapple slices, and without a spoon, too!
I sent my husband a message to ask for forgiveness. “I am sorry for being so difficult about serving you last night. I had a bad attitude and I was being selfish and judgmental. Will you forgive me? Thanks for being such a wonderful husband and sacrificing so much to take care of me. Please forgive me for not being appreciative enough.”
My prayer is that I will be a grace-filled wife, a true helpmate to my husband who desires to meet his needs with joy. Marriage should be a happy place without room for the hurtfulness of judgmentalism. I’ve got to put my stones away. My mom always says, “lower expectation, and raise appreciation” toward your spouse. I have to keep remembering that and applying it because I am prone to think negatively of my husband when I hold him to a set of expectations. Appreciation of him, on the other hand, compels and motivates me to be a better wife. And that’s what I want to be.
As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:3-11 NLT)