On Me, Terrorists, and Our Universal Need for Grace

The blogosphere was abuzz last week with talk of the need for grace – on social media (check out this wonderful Joy Bennett post on Rachel Held Evans’ blog) and beyond (and don’t miss this thought-provoking Alise Write piece).

I’m honored to have played even a small part in a very important conversation with my call for a “grace revolution” last Wednesday.

I really appreciate the thought-provoking questions people asked in both comments and emails to me. They each challenged me to think about the practical application of my call for grace.

My brain and my heart were particularly racked when I was asked, by the author of this heartfelt post reflecting on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, to weigh-in on if and how we should show grace to terrorists and other evil-doers.

With the images of that awful day (and many other acts of terrorism since then) playing over and over in my mind, it was so tempting to reply, “No, terrorists are beyond the reach of grace.”

But, I know that is not true. The truth I want to live with every breath, with every fiber of my being, is that I am better than no one, including the terrorists. I am in no less need of God’s grace than any one of them.

Can you feel how hard that is for me to say? Part of me wants to shout, “Wait! Hold on a second! I’m using my life to write a drastically different story than they did. Surely that makes me a ‘better’ person, less in need of grace.”

But then I see them – my mistakes, my imperfections, my own messiness, and the regrets that keep me up at night – all of them hanging on that cross. Oh friends, I need grace. I need it badly.

Thankfully, I have received it (and so have you). I’m covered in it (we all are). It seeps from my pores. And, when I become aware of this, I am better able to give it to others…even terrorists. Even though it makes my stomach hurt to say that.

I love this quote from Mike Foster’s “What is Grace” post on the Relevant Brokenness blog:

“If it is 100%-pure-authentic-no-holds-barred grace, it SHOULD knock me out of my comfort zone and cause some serious tension. If it doesn’t do this, then it’s probably something less than the real thing. Radical grace should leave me with questions and confusion…and that’s OK.”

So, if I’m saying we should extend grace to everyone – even the terrorists – how? What does that look like? What about the victims of evil? Where is their grace?

What we really need to ask is, what comes after grace? Does the fact that I’ve extended grace to someone mean I have to agree with everything they say and do? Do we ignore evil and injustice just because we acknowledge that their perpetrators are in need of grace?

I don’t believe that a call for a grace revolution is a call for an end to debate, disagreement or the pursuit of justice. It doesn’t mean we have to move on, ignore or forget. In fact, grace doesn’t always absolve us from the consequences of our actions. Instead, grace provides a lens through which we can see our world.

I like my thoughts, words and actions when I’ve taken a moment to first acknowledge our universal need for grace. When I do that, it quiets my impulse to respond in anger; it slows me down. It gives me space to think and respond from a place of calm. 

When I’ve done that, things like this happen:

– I am able to refrain from yelling at the driver who cut me off in traffic.

– I comment on a blog post that I disagree with by articulating my point of view instead of belittling the author.

– I see the hurting and heartbreak in places like the Horn of Africa, and I show my support for causes such as this one.

– I stand behind, love and support the brave men and women in the armed forces (and their families) – who give themselves completely to protect my family.

– I vote.

I don’t see grace as the end of the story. Instead, it’s the beginning. Grace doesn’t call for an end to disagreeing, debating, or even the pursuit of justice. But it does inform how we do those things. And that my friends, makes all the difference.

I really want to hear from you! Do you agree or disagree? Is this as hard for you as it is for me? How has grace informed your world-view?

P.S. This is a follow-up to last week’s “I am Better than No One” post. I’d love for you to read and comment on that post as well!

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What do you think?

  1. Well said!

    by Derek Hoffman
    on September 14, 2011 at 11:56 am

  2. […] My brain and my heart were particularly racked when I was asked, to weigh-in on if and how we should show grace to terrorists and other evil-doers.  Read my response here. […]

    by Every Breath I Take . com - A blog about living life with intention.
    on September 14, 2011 at 4:57 pm

  3. Great piece on such a tough subject!! A good friend once said that “Grace is something God gives us that we don’t deserve.” You’re right in that I don’t deserve grace any more than the evil-doers do, but what a tough pill to swallow!!

    by Stephanie
    on September 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm

  4. I like the idea of acknowledging the universal need for grace. For one thing, it is universal, and brings us out of duality and into unity. For another, as you say, it slows us down and recognizes our similarities rather than our differences. Thirdly, it comes from a place of contemplation rather than reactive emotion.

    Very thought-provoking, this Grace Revolution!

    by Lori Lavender Luz
    on September 15, 2011 at 12:17 am