Grace In Relationships: A Test

The verse in the Bible that has made the biggest difference in all my relationships (including my marriage) is Luke 7:47 “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” You can read the whole story (7:36-50) at your convenience but what has been so helpful to me is to understand that my belief in the gospel–that in Jesus I’m absolutely forgiven of a massive debt that I could never hope to repay–has a tremendous impact on my relationships.

In the story I think that Jesus is saying that those who know, feel, understand, grasp, and otherwise genuinely get how much they have been forgiven in Jesus, love, serve, and forgive others. Here’s the take home point: the health of my relationships isn’t so much affected by other people’s behavior as much as it is affected by my belief in the gospel. I know that’s counter intuitive but I’m confident that it is biblical.

Lynn Roush (counselor at The Crossing) and I put together a short list of ways the grace of the gospel affects relationships. You might want to read through it as a personal test that reveals whether or not you truly get grace. Whenever I read through this list, it encourages me to pray and ask God to increase my understanding and faith in the gospel.

Grace in Relationships

1. When we understand grace, we fight against the temptation to minimize our own sin. Often we downplay our sin or we think it pales in comparison to the sin of others. But grace encourages us to not rate ourselves against others, but against God and His holiness. Grace helps us understand Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”

2. When we understand grace, we are more bothered by our own sin than the sin of those around us. If we are being driven by pride, we can be critical or judgmental towards those whose sin is perhaps “more obvious.” Grace helps us grieve deeply over the wickedness that we see in our own hearts and we are far more concerned about dealing with our own sin than dealing with the sin we see in others (James 4:6-10).

3. When we understand grace, we give the same benefit of the doubt to others that we give to ourselves. We always have “reasons” or “excuses” as to why we have sinned like “I’m sick…I’m tired…I’m under a lot of pressure…I’m just responding to how they’ve hurt me…etc.” Grace allows us to extend the benefit of the doubt to someone who has fallen into sin and try to understand their struggle from their perspective and attempt to restore them with a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1-3).

4. When we understand grace, we will always deal with our own sin first before going to confront someone else’s sin. Grace will always cause us to deal with the log in our own eye before helping someone get the speck out of theirs (Matthew 7:2-6).

5. When we understand grace, we do not feel the need to defend ourselves when someone points out sin in our lives. We do not need to fear being “exposed” because we realize that there is abundant grace available at the cross to cover our sin. Knowing that we can be cleansed from all unrighteousness gives us motivation to walk in the light of God and be truthful about our sin (1 John 1:5-10).

6. When we understand grace, we are freed up to love others without condition or fear. Grace operates out of a spirit of humility and sacrificial love. We are not looking to someone else to make us feel good about ourselves, but we can fulfill the law of Christ to “love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:17-21)

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