When Grace Must Be Tough

In our roles as ministry and business leaders, where have we gone too far in letting grace abound?

Recently, I was on a video call with my friend and fellow volunteer, Denise. We were 15 minutes late starting because my morning got away from me and I was just hopping out of the shower at the planned time of our call.

Shortly into our call, my cell phone rang. Recognizing the number as my next appointment, I excused myself from the video with Denise and picked up the call from Lisa to explain that our appointment was in another hour … the difference in our time zones. Lisa sweetly said that I could call her back in an hour.

Before calling Lisa back, I checked our emails, and sure enough … she was right! I had set the time in Eastern time zone but put it in my calendar as Central. I apologized to Lisa for my mistake, and then she said the magic words.

There is grace here.

“Grace” is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. While we tend to view grace as a spiritual idea, it is also a practice that can be abused in our every day lives.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The opposite of grace is judgement, and I know that Lisa was sincere in offering me grace. She was not judging me for my mistake. And as Lysa TerKeurst explains in this podcast, we give grace because we so desperately need it.

But Paul also warned us about abusing grace.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:1-2 (ESV)

And so, rather than always offering an easy, free-flowing grace that can lose its value, perhaps we need some accountability … some tough grace.

In our roles as ministry and business leaders, where have we gone too far in letting grace abound?

Shall we continue to be late for appointments because we lose track of time?

Shall we continue to fall short of our commitments because things didn’t go as planned?

Shall we continue to lose focus because we can’t prioritize the most important tasks?

May it never be! We can offer ourselves grace, accept it from those around us and hold each other accountable, but we need a tough grace. What does tough grace look like?

Tough grace offers solutions.

Tough grace says, “I understand where you are, but I love you too much to let you stay there.” It gets down in the muck and helps you dig out, rather than letting you just bemoan your situation.

Tough grace calls it like it is.

My call with Lisa was late because of an honest mistake. My call with Denise was late because I habitually wait until the last minute to do stuff and it always takes longer than I expected. Tough grace wouldn’t let me get away with that.

Tough grace values results without diminishing relationships

People and feelings matter. But so do results. When we are in accountable relationships with people around us, we don’t measure their value by their results. We don’t measure our own value by our results. We can use results as one indicator of how faithfully we are carrying out the mission God has given us.

When a project doesn’t give the results we expected, tough grace helps us look realistically at what happened. Did we really give it our full effort? Did we allow enough time to do it right? Did we approach it with the right spirit? Tough grace helps us improve without questioning our commitment or competence.

I’m thankful for the people in my life who offer me tough grace. They are in tune with what I’m trying to do, but also understand the other limitations in my life. They don’t let me use limitations as excuses, but rather, as opportunities to fully rely on Jesus for the results.

Who are the people in your life that offer you tough grace and how does it help you complete the mission God has given you?

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6 thoughts on “When Grace Must Be Tough”

  1. What a word: grace. When it filters in, even in those “tough” forms, it’s always good. You’re causing me to think this morning, Christa, and that’s very good. Blessings from Grace Girls.

  2. This was great! My favorite line: “We can use results as one indicator of how faithfully we are carrying out the mission God has given us.”
    I love that you drive home the point that results don’t determine our value – that is set and secure through our identity in Christ. However, they do measure our faithfulness… and that is SO convicting! To think that even my faithfulness bears no impact on my value, well, it sets me free to obey because I WANT to. Because how else could I possibly respond to the work of Christ in my life?
    This is really a great post Christa! Thank-you for handling so well a difficult topic.

    • Obedience is the fruit of tough grace … it allows us to follow God’s leading when we offer it to ourselves, and helps others see their way through when we offer it to them.

  3. Love this, and while you may not do it as well with yourself, you certainly help many of us do this better. Tough grace-love it and how you listened, wrestled and are now applying these words God gave you.


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