Throughout history, God has lovingly extended His grace to situations and people who do not fit the accepted, religious mold. In my life’s journey I have encountered Christians who, for whatever reason, struggle or are unable to extend grace to others.
In contrast, I have met non-Christians who readily exhibit forgiveness and acceptance of others. How is this possible? How can we who have been forgiven ever refuse to extend God’s grace to another? It is a painful grievance that I not only have experienced personally, but also am guilty of doing.
Acts 22 reminds me of God’s extravagant grace toward us and how stingy we can be with God’s grace to others. In this chapter, Paul was rescued by the Romans from a violent mob of Jews. But Paul still held out hope for the mob. Speaking in Aramaic (a gesture of intimacy), he graciously attempted one last time to present God’s message of grace by sharing his testimony.
Upon his declaration that the gospel would now be going to the Gentiles, the Jewish mob was filled with rage. How dare Paul insinuate that God would extend His grace to the Gentiles! Paul’s encounter with the Jews in Jerusalem revealed just how far removed from God they had become.
Like so many accounts in the Old Testament, once again Israel had turned away and ceased to be grateful for God’s grace and the privileges He bestowed on them. They disregarded God’s voice, became self-righteous and legalistic; they were unable to even receive, much less extend, His extravagant grace to others, because it did not fit their religious mold.
In contrast, many Gentiles extended courtesy and kindness to Paul, and the gospel intrigued them. In hindsight we know that God used the Jews’ rejection to fulfill His plan to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. If the Jews had embraced the gospel message, how willing would they have been to share it? Even the apostles and early church struggled and dragged their feet; the radical concept of going to the Gentiles did not fit their mold.
Acts 22 presents us with a valuable lesson about not being stingy or taking God’s grace for granted. Ceasing to be grateful for God’s grace produces self-righteousness and legalism; disregarding His voice cultivates spiritual deafness, making us vulnerable to deception; and demanding conformity to our mold reaps an oppressed harvest. Acts 22 shows what happens when God’s grace is rejected, but it also unveils His grace-filled heart toward all men.
God is constantly at work, molding us into His image. He will strategically orchestrate opportunities, stretching us to extend His grace to situations and people who do not fit our mold. When your moment comes, what kind of grace will you extend?
Let us not be stingy—rather, let us be people of extravagant grace.
By: Dawn Houk, a Foursquare Navy Chaplain’s wife and Simple Church leader in Woodbridge, Va.
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