Some years ago (in 1984, to be exact), there was a video game on the Apple II called Karateka. It was one of the first side-scrolling fighting games, and I remember watching it being played when I was younger. The player had to battle a number of medieval opponents and environmental hazards, and – lacking the multiple “save points” of many modern games – being defeated meant starting over. All in all, it was a significant accomplishment to reach the end of the game.
As with other games of this era, the goal was to rescue a princess. However, this princess was no passive damsel in distress. If the player failed to switch out of a combat stance (after using that stance for the majority of the game), upon walking up to the princess, she would kill the player’s character with a single blow. Imagine getting to the end of the game for the first time, after many tries, and getting one-shotted by the heroine! So much for that playthrough – it was back to the start to try again.
In the same way, even after long days of fighting the battle against sin, we must not forget to include grace. Sometimes, we may encounter those who – like us – struggle with sin. Many of them need our love and grace first – they already know judgement and condemnation.
Sometimes, I think that we may read the following verses from Colossians and think of “grace” as just being friendly or courteous in our speech (that is, the modern usage of gracious, as in a “gracious host”).
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
Colossians 4:5-6 NASB
However, perhaps we should go back to the more fundamental definition of grace: providing someone a blessing that he or she does not deserve. When we extend grace to those who are caught up in sin, we’re not patronizing them; in fact, we’re just doing the same thing for others that God did for us (if we have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for our failures).
So, the next time someone offends you or sins against you, I encourage you to not immediately jump into a combat stance. Remember, those who don’t yet know Jesus need to be rescued (by Jesus, not by us – although we can pass along the message), but it won’t do any good to treat them like the enemy. Our real enemies are sin and other forces of evil, not other people.
Don’t be like the evil servant that Jesus described in Matthew 18:23-35, attacking a fellow servant who owed him a small debt. Instead, remember the huge debt that God forgave us when we accepted Jesus, and enter into conversations with grace, rather than in combat.