I’m not Catholic, so I don’t believe in confessing sins to a priest, but for the sake of an interesting blog post, let’s pretend that this is a confessional, and I’m confessing to you.
ME: Father, forgive me for I have sinned.
YOU: What is your sin my son?
ME: I’m a critical jerk. I’m always far more aware of people’s failings than I am of God working in their lives. This turns me into an irritated, curmudgeonly person, who isn’t very gracious. I don’t radiate grace like Jesus did. I radiate the fact that I’m irritated. I’m a self-righteous punk.
YOU: Remind me not invite you over to my house.
ME: Yeah, tell me about it. Now, what should I do?
Aaaaaannnnnnddddd, CUT SCENE. Okay, now you swap out of the confessional and let’s put the Apostle Paul in your place.
PAUL: What you should do is simple. First, repent of your sins and receive the free forgiveness that comes through the blood of Christ. Second, you must become a grace detective.
ME: I’m sorry, a what? It sounded like you said, “Grace detective.”
PAUL: I did. What I mean is that you must be looking for God’s grace at work in people’s lives. God’s grace is at work all over the place in people’s lives. We just need eyes to see it. For example, when I wrote to the Corinthian church, I was writing to a church that was in absolute chaos. There were people getting drunk during communion, a guy sleeping with his stepmother, and people were abusing spiritual gifts like crazy. But, before I brought correction to them, I wanted them to see how God was working in their lives. So I wrote:
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge?even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you?so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.?(1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV)
Yeah, that church was a wild house. But, I could see God working in their lives. They were eager for the spiritual gifts. I also knew that God would be faithful to finish the work he began. So I could genuinely thank God for them and genuinely encourage them by pointing out God’s work in their lives. And when I remembered that, it changed my perspective on them from being irritated with them to actually caring for them.
ME: So what should I be looking for in people’s lives? Where do I start?
PAUL: Simply start by looking for the fruit of the Spirit in people’s lives. Do you see a person sacrificially loving someone else? That’s God’s work. Thank God for that work and encourage them about that work. Do you see a person enduring a trial with joy and peace. God’s work. Do you see a person extending kindness to an unkind person? God’s work. Be a grace detective. Help people see where God’s grace is at work in their lives. That practice will transform you from an irritated critic in a grateful, loving person.