Pleading for Grace

January 22, 2013

In this post, I would like to examine the proper attitude of the offender towards the victim when asking for grace and forgiveness.  Here the term “offender” is used generally to represent anyone who may have committed any wrong either actively or passively towards anyone else.  Sinner, debtor, etc. are all categorized under offender for our purposes here.  Likewise, the term “victim” is used here generally to represent anyone who has been wronged by the offender and is in position, specifically, to dispense such grace to the offender.  The “offence” is used here to mean any wrong doing committed by the offender including sin, unpaid debts, any criminal or civil crimes, etc.  My hope is that this description of the attitude of the offender will fit the model of grace that is found in the scriptures in describing our relationship to God as well as to each other.

We can examine the proper attitude of the offender by examining the nature of grace.  Grace is something that is given, not earned; the giver of grace has no duty, no obligation to dispense it to the offender.  Therefore, the offender can not demand grace from the victim.  Such demands would require a wrong understanding of what grace entails.  The offender can, however, plead for grace.  Such pleadings can not have any coercive force of persuasion upon the victim.  Rather, the pleadings may appeal to the benevolent and forgiving nature of the victim, who will be able to absorb the costs of the offense by being gracious to the offender.  The pleadings may also appeal to the pitiable nature and situation of the offender, any remediating circumstances such that the victim dispensing of grace would itself not be a great a injustice and possibly a great virtue.

However, the essential element of a pleading is the “sorry.”  The offender must acknowledge the nature of his own acts as have been morally wrong before the victim.  The offender who pleads for grace cannot do so without to a certain degree admitting his own faults; when he asks for grace, he is asking for forgiveness.

There are then a number of different characteristics of the offender who pleads for grace.  These attitudes of one who pleads should be different from that of one who demands for grace.  These inner attitudes should be observable by outer, observable actions and demeanor.  Comparison of the attitudes of the offender who pleads for or demands grace highlights the proper versus the improper attitude of the offenders who ask for grace from the victim.

The one who pleads must first of all be humble.  The pleader may appeal to the benevolent and magnanimous nature of the victim and to his own pitiable situation.  The pleader is placing himself in a lower moral status, the only position from which he can receive the grace he hopes to receive.  The pleader is also asking for forgiveness, and as such is admitting his wrongfulness.  He cannot admit his wrongs without an attitude of humility.

By contrast, the one who demands grace may be arrogant. (or more precisely, “must not need to be humble.”)  The demander, who imposes upon the victim the duty to forgive, switches his position with the victim.  The demander is judging the victim for not being forgiving, and thereby positions himself on the judgement seat, on a higher moral authority.  The demander is not so much asking for forgiveness as for acknowledgement that he did no wrong at all.

There are other characteristics.  The pleader’s demeanor is marked initially by willingness, and throughout the pleading by hesitancy and even a sense of duty.  Since the plea itself must contain some form of an admittance of wrongdoing, the pleader must feel as though he must expose his own offense and yet take no pleasure in doing so.  Much as a person who takes out a log from his own eyes, he goes on with the task though he does not enjoy it.

The demander’s demeanor, on the other hand, is marked initially by denial and throughout the demands by dignity and appeals to higher moral standards.  (There may be a better word to summarize this demeanor.)  The demander wants to avoid admittance of wrongdoing and therefore does not want to acknowledge the log in his eyes.  His appeal to higher moral standards (though it condemns himself, Matthew 7), he seeks to divert attention away from his own, more glaring wrongdoing.  These demeanors are nearly the exact opposites of those of the pleader.

The pleader must be sincere and honest; he hopes to change from the received grace.  A necessary component of admittance of wrongdoing is the acknowledgement that any similar future acts by the offender would be likewise impermissible and that the offender affirms the moral judgments made upon him.  Conversely, the demander hopes to remain the same.  Because he avoids the admittance of wrongdoing, he can likewise avoid affirming and denouncing the moral judgments made upon him.

In summary, the offender may only plead for grace and not demand it.  The one who pleads must be humble, willing initially yet dutifully applying the moral standard upon himself, sincere, and reformative in his outlook.  The one who demands is arrogant, in denial, insincere, and stubborn.

Oh that our hearts may plead for grace of God and not mistakenly think that He owes us anything!  Oh that we may be on our knees and not defiantly on our feet!  Our attitudes towards each other is more complex than with God; for with God, we are the offenders and he is the “victim.”  And yet with each other, we are all offenders and victims.  I think that is why “counting each other better than ourselves” is so crucial in communities; for from the initial position of humility, we are better able to come to an admittance of wrongdoing from our own end, as well as to dispense grace to others (for in humble hearts we can better plead for God’s grace, which is the source of our grace to others).

In a future post, I would also like to examine the proper response of the offender in the event of becoming a recipient of grace and also in the event of the refusal to receive grace.


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