Grace: Should It Always Be Given?

Grace: disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)


I almost changed careers last week.  Two days in a row I had the chance to assist the police with two emergency situations.  I wondered if maybe God was telling me He had a different career planned for my life, and then I remembered I’m much happier with a child on my hip than a handgun.

However, both incidents were another lesson for me regarding the subject of grace.  The first incident occurred as I was driving home after dropping off our four-year-old at school.  There was a car in front of me driving erratically – swerving back and forth between our two lanes and then darting out into oncoming traffic and driving in their lanes for a few blocks before swerving back to his rightful spot.  I was alarmed and worried that he would seriously injure someone, so I put my meager detective skills to work and memorized the license plate while dialing 911.  By the time I finished giving the information to the dispatcher, the car had managed to speed on ahead, and so I never found out the results of the situation.  I did pray the rest of the way home, though, for safety for both that person and anyone else involved.

The next day I was again minding my own business driving home from drop off when I turned onto a street and noticed a police car with its lights flashing in front of a house.  Looking closer, I saw the police woman talking softly to a horse who had obviously escaped his pen.  Normally I don’t interfere but maybe I was feeling especially connected to law enforcement after my intervention the day before, because before I knew it, I rolled down my window and offered to help.  She took me up on it and I found myself walking toward the police officer and the horse, not sure what I could do to assist.  Thankfully, Animal Control arrived shortly after and he took over.  He asked for a few items to help safely guide the horse back into his pen and I gladly went and retrieved them.  It only took a few minutes and the horse was safely secured back in his home, chomping on carrots as his reward.

Both of these incidents made me think about grace – what it is and what it isn’t.  According to the definition above, grace is an act of kindness or clemency.  So, according to the above definition, if I’d given the driver of the car grace or if the police had given the owners of the horse grace, they would not have received tickets for the laws that were broken.  I had to ask myself a question: Was I going to give grace to the driver of the car, possibly causing an accident resulting in injury or death to an innocent victim or was I going to intervene and report the dangerous behavior?  The police officer had the same question to answer regarding the owners of the horse.  Were they going to let the incident go, despite the threat of injuries to others or the horse itself?

I realized then grace isn’t always the best choice in every situation.  Giving grace to the driver would’ve been exposing someone else to being injured.  Giving grace to the people who had disobeyed safety laws regarding their animals would have been putting others’ lives at risk as well.

This made me think about the different times in my life God hasn’t shown me grace but has instead allowed natural consequences to teach me a lesson.  Overeating for many years poses the risk of disease and other consequences such as difficulty walking or moving one’s body.  Overspending poses the risk of not being able to cover monthly bills or fear of bankruptcy.  Making it a habit to gossip about others threatens one’s reputation and people will avoid instead of be attracted to friendships with that person.

I want God to grant me grace so desperately in my own life that I try and extend grace as often as possible.  However, I’m realizing that in order to continue to mature in my spiritual walk, I need to learn the difference between allowing natural consequences to help change a potentially life-threatening behavior and being unrealistically harsh and demanding with someone and their weaknesses.

Since I hate being the bad guy, ever, I decided I better leave law enforcement to the professionals.  I’ll enjoy riding along with our neighbor from time and time, and appreciate when he allows me that privilege while answering my never ending questions, but I don’t think my personality is cut out for all that’s required of our police officers.  As I continue to mature in my spiritual walk, studying God’s definition of grace and when to give it and when to allow natural consequences to occur, I’ll keep the baby on my hip and gladly hand over the handgun to the professionals.  Although, if they ever want assistance again, say this time for a high-speed chase or shoplifter, I’ll start working on my takedown skills.  I’m sure they exist somewhere.

©2014 Cheri Swalwell

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