When I think of the word love, so many definitions come to mind.
There’s brotherly love and romantic love, of course. But the word can also mean compassion, sacrifice, nurture, affection, generosity, devotion, sympathy, and a thousand other things.
One word that has risen above the rest for me lately, though, is grace.
If there’s one aspect of love I struggle with the most, it’s softening my heart to wipe the slate clean. Especially when I’ve been hurt. Especially when a mistake has been repeated over and over. Especially when the person doesn’t realize they’ve done something to cause frustration. (Anyone else have children who fit this description?)
Showing love is easy when conflict is absent. But if feelings are wounded or patience is tested, that’s where grace comes in.
The best model of grace in all of history is Jesus. His closest friends and followers turned their backs on Him and said stupid things plenty of times.
James and John were worried about having the best seat next to Jesus in His kingdom.
Peter insisted he wouldn’t deny knowing Jesus, and yet he did. Three times.
Judas, known by all as one of the twelve, followed Jesus for months. But then he handed over Jesus for money, the ultimate betrayal that nailed Jesus to a cross.
There are so many ways I see Jesus’s love on display in the Bible. Countless times He showed compassion and care. But perhaps the most amazing—and convicting—display of love is how He responded to those who needed grace.
With James and John, He didn’t kick them out of the group. He firmly and gently corrected them with truth (Matthew 20:20-28).
When Peter denied Him, Jesus appeared after the resurrection and gave Peter a do-over—a chance to reclaim his allegiance by affirming it three times (John 21:15-19).
Before Judas snuck away to betray Him, Jesus washed Judas’s feet, all the while knowing what Judas planned to do (John 13:2-5).
Acceptance, gentle correction, forgiveness, do-overs, and humble service. These are the many ways Jesus showed grace…and ultimately love.
In my own life, I’m inspired to follow His example. Here’s what love and grace look like through that lens:
Acceptance and Gentle Correction
When my kids jockey for position at the dinner table or fight over who gets to go first in a game, I don’t kick them out of the family. I accept that their young age leads to immature behavior, and that’s okay. Instead of blaming or shaming, I gently correct. I communicate that I love them and want the best for them. And right now that means learning how to let God shape our behavior.
Forgiveness and Do-Overs
When my teenager says hurtful words or my spouse forgets to take out the trash, I choose to separate their actions from their value. My teenager is dealing with an explosion of hormones and peer pressure. That means hurtful words will be said. My spouse is juggling a hectic work schedule. That means some things will be forgotten.
While I don’t have to enable or excuse hurtful behavior (and some of it may need gentle correction), I can choose to forgive. Just because they made a mistake today doesn’t mean that defines who they’ll be tomorrow. A do-over says, “I love you enough to believe the best of you.”
When a friend or family member lets me down, I choose to actively love them—not by grudgingly doing tasks that foster resentment, but by humbly putting myself on their level. Cooking meals, doing their laundry, writing encouraging notes. These acts of service remind me that I’m no better than the person who wounded me. In the throne room of heaven, we’ll all be on our knees in need of God’s grace. Humble service repositions my heart. It reminds me that the person who hurt me is human too. And it takes away the power of bitterness and frustration.
Grace upon grace upon grace.
It may be the hardest part of loving well, but imagine the freedom of living like Jesus. It’ll be worth it, I promise.