by Tom Flaherty

rejectionLast Saturday I was sitting in the sauna at a health club chatting with a man about a number of things including the remodeling being done on the men’s and women’s bathrooms.  Because male workers are doing the remodeling, the women’s bathroom has to be the men’s bathroom for awhile which means the usual men’s bathroom is now the women’s bathroom.  There are signs clearly letting everyone know about the change.

This man left the sauna before me and I came out a few minutes later to sit in the hot tub.  As I came out the door, I saw him going into the women’s bathroom.  It was too late to give a warning.  A few minutes later he came bursting out of the door and announced to all those sitting in the hot tub that “it’s hard to break old habits.”  He wasn’t trying to go in the women’s bathroom, he had just reverted back to his usual pattern without even thinking about it.  At this, one of the other men who had been there for awhile informed me that this was the fourth man who had gone into the women’s bathroom since he had been sitting there.  It truly is hard to break old habits!

James and John, the disciples, were very familiar with the message of grace that Jesus brought.  He had said on a number of occasions that He did not come to judge, but to save (See John 3:17; 12:46-50).  Jews of that time had established a tradition of going around Samaria because they considered Samaritans heretics and didn’t want to be defiled by them.  But Jesus had broken that when He chose to walk through Samaria early in His ministry and had an encounter with a woman at a well.  So now Jesus has asked James and John to make arrangements in Samaria for a place to stay on their way to Jerusalem.  They went in a spirit of grace most likely, but when they were rejected, when they felt judgment, they shifted to a retaliatory spirit.

“‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’  But He (Jesus) turned and rebuked them (James and John), and said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Luke 9:54-56

…They had even convinced themselves that this was probably what God wanted them to do until Jesus rebuked them and said they were in the wrong spirit.  When we feel judged it’s easy to respond in judgment toward others.

As human beings it comes natural to us to live under a performance standard that causes us to continually judge ourselves and those around us.  Living in grace and extending grace to others is a completely different mindset.  Our biggest challenge to staying in this spirit is when we feel rejected.  This is when we either lose our testimony by retaliating in judgment, or when Jesus most clearly shines through us when we choose to respond those around us with mercy.  Easier said than done, but that’s why we need His grace!

What helps you continue to walk in God’s grace for you and His grace for others???

Tom Flaherty is the Lead Pastor of CityChurch in Madison, WI.

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