I have a friend who is a psychologist, and my favorite quote that I’ve heard him say often is, “All behavior makes sense in context.”
I think about that a lot when I’m interacting with people. And the more time I spend with Jesus, the more I realize how well He knows each of us intimately and our life situations so well. For example, Jesus knew Peter would deny Him, hurt His feelings, and say things he would regret. But He treated Peter with compassion and grace. Jesus knew Judas would betray Him, but He called him a friend anyway, and meant it. When I read that part and find myself in the middle of that dark garden where Judas kisses Jesus on the cheek signaling to the soldiers which one they were after, I stumble through those words of Jesus. “Do what you came for, friend (Matt. 26:50).” There is something inside of me that wants to add sarcasm to the voice of Jesus as He said that! How could He possibly call Judas His friend and mean it?!
Amazing Grace. Incredible love and mercy, poured out by an infinite Father.
Maybe you have heard this explanation before when trying to understand the difference between mercy and grace? Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.
I remember hearing that the first time and taking a hold of it as a simple truth I could wrap my hand (and my brain) around. It made sense, so I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used that simple little phrase to enlighten others when trying to understand how grace and mercy are different.
But recently it was pointed out to me what the Gospel of Luke says —
And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. Luke 2:40
If the grace of God was upon Jesus, the only one who lived without sin, then maybe my definition of grace needs to change.
When I looked up the definition of the Greek word used for “grace” in Luke 2:40, I found that it means, “divine favor.” Yes, Jesus deserved every bit of that divine favor. And guess what? His grace covers you. His divine favor is upon you, too.
What about mercy? I always pictured a Judge, seated at the head of the court room, with gavel in hand pronouncing what the guilty was accused of, but then sentencing them with a lighter judgment.
However, the Bible is clear about who the accuser is, and it’s not the Judge. Look at what Revelation 12:10 says,
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.”
Satan is the accuser. God is our merciful Judge, Defender, and Savior.
Do we deserve the grace poured out on us? Do we deserve the mercy shown to us? No, but because of Jesus they are gifts we can receive gladly and share with others, abundantly!
One of my favorite things about summer is the start of a new schedule. If you have kids or your life revolves around the months of the school year in any way, then you know what I mean. Living in a college town where so much of the population is taken up by professors and students, it’s hard not to notice the quiet hum of the city during the months of June, July and August. Almost every summer I try to have a new Bible study to go to or a new book to read that will help keep my daily quiet time with the Lord in a good rhythm. Last week I started a new study, and I have the honor of hosting it this year. As I prepared for our first meeting together and asked the Lord what to say to the amazing group of women who would sit in my living room, one of the things I felt Him say was to ask them this question,
“When you picture the Lord looking down at you, what is the expression on His face?”
Think about how you would answer this question. For so much of my life I pictured the Lord with a look of disappointment on His face. I lived by a check-list in my mind. If I didn’t have my quiet time that day or if I didn’t spend enough time praying or if I didn’t talk about Jesus to someone that day, then I would feel overshadowed by feelings of shame and guilt. It’s hard to stand in confidence of being covered by His Divine Favor, when with every step you take, you are too busy being weak at the knees, hunched over, and staring at the ground.
Daughter, it’s time to lift your head.
Maybe it’s time to stop believing the accuser and trust your Savior? You, and all those around you who have the Spirit of the Living God in their hearts, are walking with divine favor. If darts of shame are attacking you, then you can know without a doubt they are not from the perfect love of Jesus, because
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. ~ 1 John 4:18
The only reason we should grow weak in the knees is because His love makes us swoon. And when we encounter a brother or a sister who needs to be reminded of this grace, then we don’t just call them out, we call them UP, to walk within the divine favor upon their lives. Jesus spoke to Peter’s identity, not his behavior. Jesus saw Judas for who he was meant to be, not for what he had done.
Let’s live each day trusting that the expression on God’s face when He looks at you is full of love and pure delight because you are clothed with divine favor to be who He created you to be!