As I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed yesterday, a story grabbed my attention. Last year, in Cleveland, three kidnapped women, who were found in a man's home, were released after being tortured by him for eleven years. The news outlets are now interviewing the women after one year and seeing how they're functioning. One of the women, Michelle Knight, said this on the "Today" show: Knight, 33, interviewed Monday, said Ariel Castro deserves forgiveness because she'd want to be forgiven if she did wrong, and "that's the way of life."
Many commenters stated that this forgiveness is helpful because if she were to hold on to bitterness or anger, it would only harm her. And, I agree with that. But, I'd like to draw attention to the "deserving forgiveness" part.
As I've shared with my kids several times, grace is "getting what you don't deserve" and mercy is "not getting what you do deserve". In this news story, Castro, the kidnapper and torturer, deserves significant jail time and severe repercussions. While he's getting those things, the thing that he does not deserve is forgiveness. He is getting it, though, from one of his victims...and that's grace.
The point I want to make here is that he's getting grace. He's getting forgiveness. But, he doesn't deserve it.
Why is this such a big deal in my mind? Because this is a perfect illustration of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf. Because of our great sin against a perfect holy God, we deserve hell and the wrath of God. Jesus took that upon Himself in our place. That's mercy. Through Jesus being our substitute, He was able to give us forgiveness for our sins and His perfect righteousness. That's grace!
When I begin to view anything as "I deserve this" then I've lost the concept of grace. I don't deserve forgiveness, yet Jesus has given it to me. I don't deserve eternity in heaven with God, but Jesus secured that for me. I don't deserve to be called "holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation"; however, this is exactly what Jesus has done for me through His death and resurrection.
How are you viewing Jesus' work on your behalf? Do you think it's deserved? Or are you filled with great thankfulness over a gift we could never have warranted? We will live accordingly.