“What’s So Amazing About Grace?” was a pivotal book in my life. I had understood the meaning of grace – doing good to someone who deserves the opposite – but Philip Yancy brought the power of grace alive to me.
His book is full of enormous acts of grace: stories of concentration camps, murders, vicious attacks, and the grace that overcomes such awful acts.
I find it difficult to relate to such huge acts of forgiveness. I admire them certainly but they are beyond my experience. However, one story of a more domestic nature skewered my thoughts. Philip Yancy tells this as a true story that occurred between some of his friends. I still remember it 20 years later (though the details have become somewhat foggy, for which I ask forgiveness):
A young wife is preparing for her anniversary. She makes her husband a romantic dinner, puts on a pretty dress, and waits in the candlelight for her husband to come home. The husband however has forgotten their anniversary. He goes for drinks with colleagues after work, and comes home very late, after his wife has already given up and gone to bed.
Now, in the morning, what is going to happen? If you were the one who had made the dinner, how would you feel in the morning? More importantly, what would you do?
In the morning, the wife wakes up, makes breakfast for her forgetful husband and makes love to him.
What?! Even now I find that story to be wrong way around. He doesn’t deserve that!
That man did the wrong thing. The wife should be angry. She should be upset or shouting. Things may even be thrown. He has to make it up to her. He should be the one making breakfast, buy flowers, grovelling even.
A forgotten anniversary is a very small wrong. But even for that, I feel the desire to pay back in kind.
When I think about it, almost all of my temptations are in smaller matters. It is in small things that we are tempted to repay wrong for wrong – taking small revenges for small evils.
- Someone using office politics to gain a promotion that I deserved
- A ridiculing comment in a team meeting
- An uncaring response from a company’s telephone operator
- A breaking of trust by a friend
For such “small” things, I might well be tempted to pay them back – just a little: a small unkindness, a kind word withheld; a little gossip. A small hurt for small wrong.
I need verses like this to help me catch these thoughts and change my actions. To let go of my desire to inflict these small revenges, and instead, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (Gal 6:10).