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How do I show grace to mean people?

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 11:20 a.m. CDT

“I just think about beating them to the ground, but then I just ignore them,” says Ben, age 11.

You’re refreshingly honest, Ben. There are times when we’re tempted to flatten mean people. In our day, you can hire an attorney to do the flattening. There’s a line in Scripture that says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).

Showing grace to mean people doesn’t always mean ignoring someone or backing down, says John, 9: “The other day, my sister pushed me off my bike. So I told her to stop, and she did.”

My natural tendency is to avoid conflict. It’s easier. Much wisdom is needed to know when to confront and when to walk away.

“Being mean seems like a way to get respect,” says Kerri, 10.

Apart from God’s grace, we build our little fortresses of meanness around wounds we’ve suffered. We’ll hurt others before we let ourselves get hurt again.

“You kind of feel sorry for mean people because nobody wants to be their friend,” says Taylor, 10.

Yes, your own peace of mind will increase if you can receive God’s grace to look at mean people with compassion, Taylor. Often, they are living in isolation behind walls they’ve erected to protect themselves from the emotional wounds they’ve suffered.

“God showed grace to everyone, even if they were as mean as a snake,” says Megan, 11.

Understanding that God loves everyone the same is the key to showing grace to a mean, defensive person. Experiencing God’s love brings us into a larger place where we can live beyond our natural tendency to return evil for evil.

If Jesus had returned evil for evil, he never would have been crucified. Legions of angels were waiting for orders. Instead of a command to attack, the angels heard a prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

“Jesus still loved them, and he forgave them,” says Mary, 11.

“We should forgive those who trespass against us. Sound familiar?”

Yes, it does. In what has become known as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us” (Matthew 6:12 NLT).

Jesus’ death and resurrection secured eternal life for all who have trusted him as their savior. However, walking in harmony with God requires that we confess our sins to God and extend the same forgiveness to others that we have received.

Receiving God’s forgiveness is not only the foundation for forgiving mean people, but it’s also the basis for returning good for evil. Christians have been forgiven a much larger debt than anyone will ever owe them.

“Even if people are not nice to you, you should still show grace to them because that’s what Jesus would do,” says Jessica, 11. You’re probably thinking about W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do?).

Try W.I.J.D. (What Is Jesus Doing?). When Jesus returned to heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in and empower his people. Every Christian who truly follows Christ lives by the same Spirit that empowered Jesus when he walked on the Earth.

Think about this: It’s easy to show kindness to the kind, but only God’s grace can prompt you to return good for evil.

Memorize this truth: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Ask this question: What is Jesus doing through you to show his grace to mean people?

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