Oh, to grace, how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be. Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.
This morning, we’re reading Mark 4:21-34. Read these thirteen verses through several times. Mark things that move you, or just seem curious and worth more consideration. Write a few phrases down so that you can mull them over throughout the day.
There’s one phrase that I circled in this text that is so profound and so weighted and so life changing to me. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.” (verse 24)
What a statement! There are two other places in the Gospels where Jesus says a variation of this, and to understand it more, it’s good to check them out as well.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see 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,’ when there is the log 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 ESV)
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
(Luke 6:37-38 ESV)
In both of these passages, Jesus seems to be talking about grace and mercy. Do I want to be shown grace? Yes. Do I want to be treated mercifully? You better believe it. And, apparently, it starts with me; how do I treat others?
Judging is easy. I do it all the time. We all do! Even those who pride themselves on not being judgmental are judgmental. They judge people who seem to be judgmental. Have you ever noticed that?
Condemning is easy, too. I do that all the time too—to my shame. My prayer this morning is simply that I would show others the very same grace I would like to be shown.
Practically speaking, I think it’s about giving the benefit of the doubt. A couple of times recently, I’ve been in social situations where someone has been particularly ungracious toward me. My default posture was one of offense. I was offended by what they said, and my natural response was immediately to judge. She’s so controlling, I thought. She’s so narcissistic, I mused.
Yet, if I’m honest, the fact is that, sometimes, so am I. I have bad days, bad moods, ugly moments when I am not considerate, I am not careful with my words, I am not sensitive to how what I say will hit others. In those moments when I am offended, can I find the grace to extend the benefit of the doubt? Might she not be a horrible person, but rather a human, like me, having a bad day?
There is an obscure passage in the Psalms that has become part of my regular process of dealing with offense, and it is reminiscent of this passage:
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
(Proverbs 19:11 ESV)
Is it actually possible for me to “overlook an offense?” Yes, but it’s not easy. And it requires that I consider Jesus’s words here about measurements in the kingdom of God. I want to be shown mercy when I mess up. So I must show mercy to others when they mess up.
At the end of the day, everything boils down to love. And anyone who has attended more than a few weddings in America, at least, has heard about God’s description of love’s character: it is patient and kind. It doesn’t envy or boast. It’s not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rather it rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love gives the benefit of the doubt.
And according to Jesus, if I want to get love (as described above)—which I do—I’ve got to start by giving love, as described above.
We should just go ahead and assume that someone is going to do or say something to offend us today. It might be a stranger cutting me off in traffic or driving under the speed limit when I’m in a hurry and stuck behind them. Someone on a crowded subway train standing in the door so that you can’t get on before the doors close. Or it could be a boss, giving credit to someone else (or taking it) when it should have come to you. A spouse who doesn’t listen to you when you speak. A friend who has a dinner party and doesn’t invite you. A colleague who speaks down to you in a professional setting. Whatever it is, can we—through prayer and surrender to God—extend to others the measure of love and mercy and grace that we would like to have extended to us? Because, the fact is, there will be plenty of times when I am the one offending someone else. Can grace flow from me to others, and, by God’s grace, from others back to me? I pray so.