Lesley Dahlseng

Children's Book Author and Christian Blogger

Grace to Be Gracious (Part 1)

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grace[1]“A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” ( John 13:34-35).

Jesus’ words form the backdrop to a lesson His disciple Peter is soon to learn.  Certainly the last three years had been the most revelatory of any Peter had experienced, though none were as pivotal as what was yet to come.

Jesus continued, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’  Peter asked, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now?  I will lay down my life for you.’  Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me?  I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!'” (John 13:36-37).

And so it went.  Three years of loyal discipleship appear to reach a bitter end.  Three times Peter disowns Jesus and for three days he is left with the grief over his master in a tomb.

It’s so easy to brood over the remorse of our last moments with loved ones.  Did we say ‘I love you’?  Was our last goodbye with an embrace?  Did we fully express our appreciation like we should have?  At times our last moments are in strife.  Perhaps there was a disagreement.  Perhaps we needed to ask forgiveness and didn’t get the chance.  This is the torment Peter no doubt faced. His last memories were of Jesus’ eyes locked on his . . . just as the rooster crowed.  Jesus knew, and there was no time for apologies.

Thankfully, we serve a God who can raise up even something that’s dead.  After three days, Christ was raised, and within His third appearance to His disciples, He was about to raise up a broken Simon Peter.  The three betrayals were met with three questions from Jesus.

First:     “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
Second: “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
Third:   “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Three times Peter was given the opportunity to replace each rejection with an affirmation of his love for Jesus.  My NIV Bible offers the heading “Jesus Reinstates Peter” to this passage.  It is a powerful illustration of second chances.  It is a powerful demonstration of GRACE.  

It is interesting that the disciple whose actions should have caused the greatest offense against Jesus went on to become the one whom most scholars agree was the head apostle.  Peter was also the first to receive the revelation concerning the acceptance of the gentiles.  Within his vision, the Lord revealed to him, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10: 15).  This would have been a major challenge to their prejudicial mindsets during that time – but Peter understood grace.

It is difficult to be gracious to others if you can’t receive grace for yourself.  Pride is at the crux of this dilemma.  After all, how can God’s blessings be recognized as an act of grace if we feel we deserve them?  Grace can only be received in humility.  Likewise, true graciousness can only be offered out of humility.  True graciousness is an extension from the understanding of the grace God has given. 

Jesus points out this principle as his feet were being wet with the tears of a sinful woman, washed by her hair, and anointed with her perfume.  This woman had been extended grace, and Jesus references her actions as a window into the nature of love – and, I believe, grace as well.  After all, grace is the extension of God’s love.  Jesus stated, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much.  But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).  Similarly, Peter had been forgiven much, and he would soon be called to love much.  Grace would call him to be gracious. 

Remember the backdrop to Peter’s pivotal lesson?  Jesus had just finished commanding His disciples to love one another to such an extent that others would recognize they were disciples of Christ.   He then told Peter that where He was about to go, Peter couldn’t follow . . . “but you will follow later.”  This is likely in regards to Christ’s death, resurrection and heavenly ascension.  Nonetheless, there seems to be great symbolism within this statement as well, given the lesson Peter was soon to undergo.  At that time, Peter was incapable of following Jesus’ command to love just as He had loved.  Peter had yet to fully comprehend his own need for grace.  He was still convinced of his own abilities. Until . . .

Until his betrayal and reinstatement. It is interesting that after each opportunity Peter had to replace his betrayals with affirmations, Jesus gave these commands:

First:    “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
               “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
               “Feed my lambs.”

Second: “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
                 “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
                 “Take care of my sheep.”

Third:   “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
               “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
               “Feed my sheep.”

These commands can be easily romanticized on our super-spiritual highs. However, there will be lows. The “sheep” and “lambs” are not always so cute and cuddly. Sometimes they seem downright baaa-d. (Sorry, I had to – I’m a children’s author after all!)  Personally, in these times I’ve learned that I will not be able to extend grace if I don’t bring to remembrance the grace given to me!

” . . . to you who are listening I say:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you . . .

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.
And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? . . .
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
(Luke 6:27-36)


To view Grace to Be Gracious (Part 2), click here.
To view Grace to Be Gracious (Part 3) – Audio Message, click here.
To view more articles written by Lesley, simply
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Author: Lesley Dahlseng

Children's Book Author and Christian Blogger

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