Extending Grace


Dr. John E. Hoole – October 9, 2016




Let me begin our lesson today with a question.




Actually, that is two questions.  Give me an answer for either one or both.  In answering the second question first, I could say that what makes Christianity different is that all religions except Christianity makes man’s salvation dependent on man.  Christianity is dependent of what God has done for us not what we can do for Him.  And what He has done for us was to come in the form of a human flesh, who “humbled Himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the Cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8)


But our Lord did not remain in the tomb.  The major difference of Christianity is that our founder came back from the dead, and remains alive.  No other god has prophesied he would and followed through with it.  It boils down to one word – GRACE!  (Giving to us beyond what we deserve)


But that is the same word that describes the difference between Christians from all other people.  Grace is at the core of what Christ is telling us in the last two illustrations given in Matthew 5.  These are illustrations that demonstrate a righteousness exceeding that of the Scribes and Pharisees.  True righteousness extends grace to others.


The last two illustrations actually go together.  The 5th – The restraint we show in our response to an act against us by an evil person, is seen in the 6th – How we show godly love even to our enemies, is all about extending grace to others.


I am talking about treating others not as they deserve but as God wishes them to be treated, with loving-kindness, mercy and grace.  God is good to the unjust as well as the just (as we will learn in the final section of Matthew 5).  His love embraces saint and sinner alike.  God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us.  Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish toward us, must be marked by the same kindness, grace and mercy which God has shown to us.  I know it is easier to show kindness and grace when we can expect a benefit from doing so.  How much harder when we can expect nothing in return.  This is what breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.


Last week, in our lesson on Retaliation, we learned followers of Christ follow a different pattern of behavior to the rest of the world.  Jesus calls us to respond counter-intuitively.  Instead of meeting evil with equal or greater force, he urges us to meet evil with a completely different force: with good.  Instead of paying back in kind, we are called to pay back with kindness.


Jesus is telling us, “Don’t do evil just because someone did evil to you.”  They did the wrong thing. You do the right thing.  Don’t get involved in the business of trying to get even – making sure everybody gets what they deserve.  That is God’s job and he’s really good at itInstead, we are supposed to get along as much as possible.  Romans 12 in some ways parallels the illustration in Matthew 5 we are looking at.


Romans 12:18 NKJV


18     If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.


                   It may not be possible, but we should do whatever we can on our side.


But what if that encourages them to continue their evil ways?  God has an answer for you – we read the next verse in Romans 12 earlier.


Romans 12:19 NKJV


19     Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.


God will take care of justice.  It may not be when we want it.  It may not be how we want it.  But He will make sure that justice is done.  This policy is not a lack of justice.  It is a call to us not to take personal revenge in order to get justice.  Leave justice and revenge to God.  Some of that justice we may not see until we get to heaven.  But some of that is going to happen here on earth.


So, in the meantime, we are supposed to keep out of it and let Go do his thing.  We’ve got a different job to do.  Paul tells us as he continues in Romans 12, after instructing.us not to take vengeance.


Romans 12:20-21 NKJV


20     Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."

21     Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


We are to answer evil with good.  The trap is to be overcome by evil, to be so hurt, so wounded that we too choose an evil path by personally trying to settle the score.  God says pay back evil with good.


At the end of last week’s lesson, I listed, without comment, four examples Christ gives of how this non-retaliation will work.


         •  Vs. 39:  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.


         •  Vs 40:  If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.


         •  Vs 41:  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.


         •  Vs 42:  If someone asks you, do not turn away from him.


For us to fully understand these statements – directions – we need to keep in mind their context.


         1.  These instructions are given as examples of not returning evil for evil directed at you.


         2.  They add to our understanding of a righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees.


Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Christ repeatedly gives us instructions on how we are to live our life when confronted with hostility or evil actions.


1.  Matthew 5:9:  We are called to be the peacemakers.  If we do, we are promised to be called “the children of God.”


2.  Matthew 5:10-12:  We are to rejoice when all kinds of persecution come our way the sake of displaying righteousness.


3.  Matthew 5:23-24:  We are instructed on what to do when we remember our brother has something against us.


4.  Matthew 5:38-42:  We are not to resist an evil person by retaliating with evil in return.


5.  Matthew 5:44:  We are to love our enemies.


6.  Matthew 7:12:  It comes up again, in Chapter 7, where we are told to treat others as we would like to be treated.


How can we possibly pattern our lives to include these instruction from Christ?  How can we love those who cause us harm or ill-will?  With God all things are possible.  He gives power and grace to those who believe and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit.  His love conquers all; even our hurts, fears and griefs.


Only the cross of Jesus Christ can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment, and gives us the courage to return good for evil.  Such a response has the power to heal and to save relationships.


I was trying to think of how to describe what Christ is asking of us in our conduct in the face of severe attacks of the enemy.  Let me try this way:  What is this game  you see on the screen?  That’s right: it is the game of checkers.


I didn’t realize it until I began my research for this lesson, but the game of checkers in one of the oldest games known to mankind.  Archaeologists think the earliest form of the game was unearthed in archaeological dig in the ancient city of Ur in southern Mesopotamia estimated to be 5,000 years old.


Egypt had their own form of the game – called Alquerque – around 1,400 B.C.  That’s about a century after the time Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt.  Now neither of those games looked quite like the form of checkers that we play now.  Our present form didn’t happen until about 1,100 A.D., when a Frenchman made the game board bigger with more spaces.


In 1847, the first championship award was given and to this day checker championships are held around the world.  The US Tourney (for example) was held this year in July at Branson, Missouri.  And the world championship tourney was held in the city of Knighton, Wales on 9/21-25/16.


When I play checkers, I don’t give much thought to the game.  I jump the other person’s pieces and try to get as many of mine to be “Kinged.”  But when you get to the championships, these folks take the game very seriously and they have strategies and gambits that I have never thought of.  There’s the Double Corner Master Opening, or the “Fife Opening,” and the “Spider Web” and the “Zorro Trap.”


In fact, these folks have the game down so well, that in championship games there are three specific plays that are illegal  because those moves would give the player an unfair advantage from the very beginning.


Here is also an oddity that the purist hold to.  In championship tournaments, the game pieces are always red and white.  And the person with the red pieces always starts the game by making the first move.  But most of the checkers games you can buy at the toy store have black and red pieces.  When that happens, the darker pieces – in this case the black pieces – are called “red”  and the lighter color – in this case, the red pieces – are called “white.”


Here is another question: Is checkers the only game that can be played on this board?  That’s right, … you can play chess on this board also.  They are, however, very different games – but the same board


Why did I bring up the games of checkers and chess?  These two games – checkers and chess – represent to me two different ways to deal with or respond to evil people and enemies that assail you and I because of our faith.


Checkers, for example, is the Mutually Assured Destruction approach.  In checkers, in order to win the game, you literally have to decimate your opponent.  You need to remove all their pieces or put him into a box where they no longer have a move.  But, in the process, you will lose most of your pieces as well.  That is why I call it the Mutually Assured Destruction approach.  To win requires severe losses of assets by both players.


By contrast, Chess is an entirely different kind of game.  I am told that it is possible to win a game of chess without losing any of your pieces.  And it is also possible to win such a game without your opponent losing a piece.  You put your opponent’s king in check, where he has no other places to move it.


When it comes to dealing with conflict of evil people and enemies, the world generally like to play checkers.  But God prefers that we play chess.


In Matthew 5:39, we are told “not to resist an evil person.”


         But the final illustration given by Christ in the fifth chapter is in some ways related.


In Matthew 5:43-44 (NKJV), Christ says:


43     "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'

44     But I say to you, love your enemies,


It is possible that the “evil person” in verse 39 is the same as the enemy in verses 43 & 44.  Christ is telling us what our response should be to an enemy or an evil person.  He started by telling us how most people would respond – with an evil response.  The rationale – “Well, they’ve hurt you.”  They have treated you unfairly – they have done you dirty.  Maybe they cheated you, or said nasty things about you.  In short, there is usually a very good reason why you shouldn’t like them.


Have you ever encountered someone like that in your life?  Of course you have … and so have I.  How likely am I or you going to treat them.  Is praying for them the first thing that comes to your mind?  Maybe.  Am I going to say nice things about them in mixed company?  Not if I can help it.  When the next snow storm hits, am I running over to them to shovel the snow from their driveway so they can get out of their garage.  Not likely.


So often, we are more likely looking for an excuse to execute “justice” with them.  If I’ve been hurt, they should hurt.  If I’ve lost, they should lose.  After all, it’s an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.  It’s only fair that they should suffer as they have made me to suffer.


This is where checkers ad chess come in.  It is only fair that we get some satisfaction from the pain of our enemies, even if we are not the one to make them suffer.  They have taken a piece off my board.  I should be able to take some of their pieces off their side of the board too.  And the more pieces I can take away from them, or watching pieces being taken away by someone else, the more satisfaction I will feel.


I read a story about a man here in the state of Washington.  Is wife had filed for divorce and he was furious.  So he went down to the courthouse and paid $11.50 for a permit.  A demolition permit.  Then he went home where he had a bulldozer waiting, and he bulldozed their 3-bedroom home.  He figured, if she was going to divorce him – she wasn’t going to have the house.  Of course … neither would he.  But that didn’t matter.  He was satisfied because he had denied her something of value.


That is the game of Checkers.  Checkers is a game of Mutually Assured Destruction.  I’m going to hurt you because you hurt me.  And I don’t care how much it costs me … because I am going to WIN.  Winning is the object of the game, and the more I can hurt you in the process, the better I am sure I am going to feel.


So, in these illustrations, Jesus tells us how the world is going to play this game.  But then Jesus tells us that is NOT how we ought to be playing.


What if God was playing Checkers in my place?  Despite what the world may think, God does not want to destroy anyone.  God’s desire is always to save … not to destroy.  His Word tells us that He is patient with us.


2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV) tell us:


9       The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.


Despite what the world may think, God does not want to destroy anyone.  He doesn’t want to decimate our game board.  God’s desire is always to same … not to destroy.


You see – that is God’s game plan.  He has always intended to win His game with us without losing anymore pieces than necessary.  And Jesus tells us: that’s how God wants you and I to treat others.  God wants us to be like Him.  If He is our Father, you and I need to grow up to be like Him.


Let me tell you of two high schoolers playing dodge ball – and do it through the eyes of one of them.   Well, this was in the high school gym and the court was well defined.  The rules were, if you got hit by the other team, or they caught your tossed ball, you were out.  And then you would have to sit  on the bench seat along the side of the court.  He says, “that’s where I ended up.”


But, if one of the stray balls would come my direction, what do you think I did?  I would throw it to one of my team’s remaining players.  However, John from other team took exception to what I was doing.  He had one of those dodge balls, standing maybe 15 feet from me, and he took the ball he had and threw it at me as hard as he could.  I threw my hands up to protect myself with fingers extended.  I can still feel the pain of the ball jamming my fingers, he said.  Then John turned and walked away.


He had gotten his pound of flesh.  But, I had not.  He says, “I jumped up off the bench, ran up behind him, and bumped him with my right shoulder.  He turned around and I decked him with a left hook that would have made Cassius Clay proud.  And it felt good – I’d gotten back at him.


However, now I had a problem.  Here is this guy laying on the flor… and we are about one step away from having brawl.  It was then John did the most peculiar thing.  He looked up at me for a moment, got up, dusted himself off and walked away.  That was it.  He walked away.  I had never encountered anyone who had ever walked away from a fight like that.  I wouldn’t have walked away, he said.  But he did and in that moment I knew he was the better man.  It threw me off.  I wasn’t expecting it.  And from that day on, my life literally changed.


You and I live in a real world.  We are going to get hurt now and again … and once in a while it is going to REALLY hurt.  We are going to be tempted to fight … to strike out … to hurt the other person.  And when that happens we have a choice to make.


We can respond like many in the world do by getting personal satisfaction by hurting the one who hurt us.  OR, we can ask ourselves what God would have done in that situation and choose to do that.




I want to close with another story of a young man.  His name was Damare, a young slave boy in Africa.  He was a Christian and regularly attended church in an area that was strongly Muslim.  One day, as he was making his way back from Church service, he was met by men who hated what he was doing.  They dragged him into the brush and beat him terribly.  And before they left him to die, they nailed his knees and feet to a board.


Miraculously he survived and was asked how he felt toward those who had done this to him.  He responded that he forgave them.  But why?  How could he possibly think of forgiving those who had done this to him?  His answer: Jesus forgave those who nailed Him to a tree.  How can I do less?


That embodies the act of extending grace to others.