"Mamma's boiling mad," my three-year-old grandson, Ian, told me when I met him, his one-year-old brother, Alec, and their mother, Beth, at the park recently. When Ian told me the reasonhe'd pushed Alec into the mudI understood why my daughter, whom I'd seen "boiling mad" many times as she was growing up, was angry. Later that night before little Ian went to bed, he pulled me aside and said, "I'm going to start being nice to Alec. But mostly I don't want to."
I understand that! There are times I don't want to "play nice," eithersuch as the time I pulled into a crowded parking lot in search of an empty spot. When I finally followed a woman to her car and waited patiently for her to vacate her space, a man in a truck stole it out of the blue. I didn't feel very gracious; instead, I had a number of things I wanted to say to him!
I'm a therapist, and I remember a session in which a young wife poured out her heart. She'd thought her familycomplete with three kidswas solid; she was totally stunned when her husband told her he was leaving her for another woman. She didn't even have to say the words for me to know she didn't want to be gracious to this man, either.
We all struggle with these feelings at some point, because we've all been on the receiving end of unjust, hurtful behavior. In those moments, we ask the tough question: Do we have to forgive all actions?
God knew we'd question this because there are count less examples in the Bible of him forgiving people who betrayed him. One of the most startling examples of this is the Old Testament prophet Hosea, who married Gomer, a prostitute, at God's command. Though Gomer wandered back into her unrighteous ways, Hosea sought her out, paid off her pimp, brought her home, and loved her. God uses Hosea's love as an illustration of the way he feels for us, his disobedient children.
There are people such as Gomer in each of our lives. While Gomer didn't seem to deserve grace, Hosea forgave her. And God forgives usto the point that he, too, searches for us, brings us back home, and loves us intensely and unconditionally.
The Bible tells us to love others as God loves us. That means we need to forgive and extend grace in every situation. But when we do, we're the ones who are freed from bitterness and anger. And when we make a conscious choice to "play nice"as my grandson Ian didGod's there to help us extend grace to others even when we "mostly don't want to."
Enjoy classic hymns and inspiring narration on Thelma Wells' new CD, His Glorious Grace (available by calling 1-800-843-5622). For information on locations, dates, and registration for Women of Faith's conferences, call toll-free 1-888-49-FAITH (493-2484), or visit their Web site at www.Women-of-Faith.com.
Copyright © 2001 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.
Click here for reprint information on Today's Christian Woman.