On a regular basis, I have to ask myself a question: am I showing grace, or am I enabling people? Here’s what I mean: someone comes to the church for help, they give me a story as to why they can’t provide, and they want the church to give food, pay a bill, or whatever else they’re asking for. The first time I meet with someone, I typically give (what I am able and allowed to give), no questions asked. But the more I see some people, they tell me the same stories, with themselves as the hero, and how it’s everyone else, not them, and they need it just one more time. And just one more time turns in to just one time more, and so on and so forth. And so, to truly and honestly help them, as well as to protect the people and resources of the church, I have difficult discussions, such as “why do we keep getting here?” “what’s the common denominator in all of these circumstances you’ve said to me?” and, “what do we need to do to prevent you from getting here again?” I also ask “Am I showing you grace, or am I enabling you not to help yourself at this point?” Usually they stop coming back when these conversations happen, even if I still offer help.
The thing is, this isn’t just a “people outside of the church” behavior. People bring their wounds in to the church, whether attending, visiting, serving, or whatever, and, at times, these wounds bring hindrances to others within the church. The natural response is to be afraid, and to say “If I approach this, they’ll stop coming back. Let’s just see what happens,” at which time the matter usually gets dropped, and attempted to be forgotten. Yet, we have to ask: are we showing grace, or are we enabling? Are we allowing wounds to fester, or are we bringing them before Christ so they can heal? Are we helping or are we hindering someone’s progress by allowing these things to continue to happen? The Scriptures are clear: we need to address sins, hangups, holdups and heartaches within the body of Christ, and let people heal.
When Jesus shows us grace, it’s not merely to be saved, but to be changed, healed, made new, made alive from death. Jesus forgave sins, He never approved of them. Jesus healed bodies, he didn’t allow the wounds to continue. Jesus cast out unclean Spirits, He didn’t allow them to continue to take up residence in people. He helped people up with the purpose of keeping them up, and never enabled them to stay where they were at. We, who are His body, must also have the same mindset and help people do the same. In your interactions with people, ask this question: am I showing grace, or am I enabling? There’s a difference.
2 Corinthians 3
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.