Thankfully, a good, loving, faithful, and kindhearted God provides grace for both the sinner and the sinned against in just the right portions as the need calls. Therefore, what should be done? What can we do? If you are the sinner, then pray desperately for the grace of God to work in your heart to forsake sin, turn to Jesus, and walk in righteousness. Ask for the grace of God to seek forgiveness, to be restored, and to strive for restitution. Thankfully, God provides this kind of grace. If you are the sinned against, then pray desperately for the grace of God to work in your heart as well.
In some recent conversations, I have been reminded of this essential question, “Who needs grace more – the sinner or the sinned against?” No doubt you have been both, as have I. Sometimes I have been the sinner – who certainly needed grace in the midst of it and afterwards. At other times I have been the sinned against – who certainly needed grace in the midst of it and afterwards, too. The answer may surprise you.
Grace for the Sinner
Sin is hard. When we sin, some desire, thought, idea, or thing has captured our heart. In that moment, the follower of Jesus forsakes passionately following Jesus in order to chase after something or someone else. The heart gets captivated by the shining something, whatever that is. When this happens, gratitude and significance for the love of Christ dims in light of whatever it is that has captured the sinner’s heart. In other words, love of something in your life carries more weight than your love for Jesus or your neighbor in that moment.
Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments with two. First, we are to love God supremely, more than anything else in life – with all one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength. This kind of love of Jesus provides the foundation for living. This love for Jesus anchors your heart and keeps you from chasing after other loves. The second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, when you sin against God or against another person, you have switched loves. In that moment you love something in your heart more than your love for Jesus Christ or your love for the other person.
When this happens, your attitude, words, and actions all rush forth out of your heart to express whatever it is your heart desires or loves. If someone disappoints you, you may lash out with your words. You may gossip, criticize, or be unkind. When another driver pulls in front of you, you may blow your horn, follow too closely, or complain. If someone does something you do not appreciate, you may judge motives, talk to yourself negatively about the person, get angry, or some combination of all these things.
Is grace needed? Absolutely! In this moment, the sinner desperately needs the grace of God. This grace of God is in the form of drawing the sinner back to a relationship with God filled with sweet fellowship which flows out of love for Jesus. Further, this grace gently corrects the sinner producing guilt and often shame, which should encourage the sinner to turn back to Jesus. This grace works to help the sinner identify the adulterous love in the heart, turn away from it, and run back to the loving and forgiving hands of God (James 4:1-10).
Grace for the Sinned Against
Being sinned against is hard. Someone chooses to love something more than Jesus or neighbor which results in sin. The neighbor takes the brunt of a heart gone rogue. Possibly it is an attitude. Maybe an unkind look or word. Of course, it can be so much worse than sins of the attitude or tongue. On the extreme end, laws are made to protect people from the extreme sins.