” . . . it is a gift of God not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).
God in our Lord Jesus Christ initiated salvation. God extended his lovingkindness to us, his enemies. We were hostile to him, not even wanting the gift he offered. If we were in Jerusalem, in the crowd that stood before Pontius Pilate as he asked whether Jesus or Barabbas should be released, you can bet that most of us, knowing what we knew at the time, would’ve swelled with passion as we screamed, “Barabbas! Barabbas!” And if we stood by at the foot of the cross, hurling insults, or egging on the soldiers who nailed him to the cross, we would’ve heard him pray for us, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” And we would’ve called him crazy, saying he was delusional from all the pain. Yet God in his grace–gave us what we don’t deserve. God extended his kindness and love and salvation and the eternal and incomprhensible treasure of relationship with us to us. He initiated.
There are people who hate and despise us. They take advantage of us. They could be within the church. So-called brothers and sisters acting as enemies. It could be people within the church acting in spite towards us, gossiping about us, acting in hate not love toward us. It could be an unbelieving coworker. It could be a family member that uses us. Being loving and kind to them when they have done nothing to deserve it, when they don’t even acknowledge or appreciate our love and kindness, is grace. Doing unto them what we would have lovingly done to us is grace.
I am not speaking of allowing ourselves to be physically, emotionally, or sexually abused. That is a different matter all together.
But I am saying that we are to extend the same grace to others that God continually extends to us. And it can only be consistently done with the help of the Holy Spirit. Left to our sinful selves, we hate and despise God and our neighbors.