We are all faced with situations in life where we need to choose how we will respond. When another person does something that either offends us or inconveniences us, we have a choice. Will we respond with annoyance, criticism, even anger? Or will we choose to offer grace?
Last week I was returning to my car from having picked up a couple last-minute items at the grocery store. A man was pulling out of his parking space and came a bit too close to a man who was also walking in the lot. The pedestrian yelled and swore at the driver who seemed unaware of the close miss. When the near-victim realized that I was right there and had witnessed it all, he asked if I didn't agree that the other man had been a jerk.
What? Someone was actually asking my opinion about the situation? What would you say? I replied that I did not agree because people make mistakes all the time and that we need to offer them grace. All too often while driving I've not seen someone or I've waited to the last minute to change lanes which ended up inconveniencing someone else. Never were my actions meant to intentionally offend or trouble another; they were just something I did that happened to momentarily inconvenience someone else. When I am on the receiving end of another's miscalculations, I too can get irritated and upset. However, when I remember my own imperfections as a driver sharing the road with the millions of other Bay Area residents, I realize I have absolutely no room to complain. I can only offer grace, relax, thank Jesus there was no contact, and just move on.
The man standing there in the parking lot did not agree, and my attempt to explain my perspective in a brief, one-sentence reply only seemed to anger him more. Perhaps he did not understand what grace is all about. There was a time in my life when I did not understand it either. There was a time when I did not comprehend how I had offended a holy and righteous God nor how much of a right He had to condemn me. Instead of just shaking His fist at me and writing me off, He came down and died for me. He offered me grace, forgiveness, and eternal fellowship. Now, as a follower of Jesus, I am urged to offer the same grace to others. Jesus told a parable about an unmerciful servant who expected more of others than he wanted for himself. When the master discovered his hard heart, he told the wicked man, "Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" (Matthew 18:33)
Sadly I walked away from the indignant man. I could have been irritated with him, but instead I offered a silent prayer for him to my loving Savior. I decided to choose grace. Oh, Lord, help me to always choose grace when others irritate or offend.