Being more like Jesus: full of grace

By Nicole Barnard

In my purse I carry a prayer which starts ‘empower me O Lord I pray to love the way You do, with gentleness and mercy, goodwill and kindness too.’

I like to think I’m kind to others, but have been challenged of late by my lack of grace, mercy and goodwill. Not that I don’t show goodwill to others, more that it is limited to my carefully measured amounts; there is only so much I will give according to my thinking, my standards, to how I judge people’s behaviour. There seems to be a sort of a sliding scale….

How far removed is this from the biblical concept of grace, from God’s abundant love, from the Gospel of Salvation of which I am a grateful recipient?!

While we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)

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Faithful stewards of God’s grace

1 Peter 4:10 reminds us that we are to be ‘faithful stewards of God’s grace,’ and this means distributing it as He does:

  • inclusively, unconditionally, extended to all regardless of who they are or what they have (or have not) done (‘for it is by grace you have been saved, not by works’ Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • extensively, abundantly, without limits (‘from his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another’ John 1:16) and from a never-ending supply

Further, in line with God’s upside-down Kingdom values, ‘where sin increased, grace increased all the more’ (Romans 5:20).

Let’s be honest, I’m sure I’m not the only one whose scale of grace runs in the opposite direction to this based on the extent to which I feel offended.

Christ died for my sins, past, present and future. Everyday as I pick up my cross and follow Him I receive His forgiveness and grace anew, and yet I deign to deny others even small acts of mercy and grace?!

Let your conversation be always full of grace

The Bible has much to teach us about the way in which we speak being a reflection of our heart and the Lord’s influence on it and our life. Colossians 4:6 cautions us ‘let your conversation be always full of grace.’ How? When our hearts are filled with God’s love the words we speak will be gracious.

When I think of times when I have regretted saying something, it is undoubtedly something ungracious, something which did not display the depths of God’s gracious love, and something which instead reflected the debris gathered on the floor of my heart.

Earlier in Colossians, Paul reminds us ‘whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus’ (3:17). Would Jesus approve of my speech? Am I a good ambassador, faithfully representing Him?

Do you remember the popular ‘WWJD?’ What about considering ‘What Would Jesus Say?’ if you’re ever in any doubt. And if you are, that’s probably an indication not to say it, or at least to pause and think before you speak, to say it in the kindest way possible. 

You’ve probably heard the criteria for gracious speech. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? To this I would add Will it build others up enabling them to reach their full potential?

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Gracious speech

After all, gracious speech, like love, is about the other, not about ourselves. If we strive to love others as God loves us, prioritising their feelings over our own egos, always looking for the good (and not presuming the worst), our speech will be naturally gracious, an outworking of God’s love in our hearts.

As I pray daily for God to empower me to love the way He does, I need also to pray that as I spend more time in His presence I will be transformed more and more into His likeness so that being gracious will become a natural part of my character, an outworking of the love of God in me. I’ll take off my ‘spectacles of offence’ (to quote my vicar). 

A true understanding of God’s grace should transform our hearts, attitudes and actions. Living life in all its fullness, the abundant life, involves unmeasured love and grace, and this can be the conduit to others experiencing the abundant life. What a responsibility we have been given, as His ambassadors, to shine His grace and love!