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Joseph Cooke was a missionary to Thailand a generation ago. He illustrated grace this way. Picture a happily married couple in which both husband and wife are all that either could ever wish the other to be. The husband always respects his wife’s feelings, always treasures her individuality, is never unkind, never overbearing. He never forgets their anniversary, he is a model father to their children, helps with the housework, is genuinely and sincerely concerned about her happiness and welfare. She, for her part, returns respect for respect. She anticipates his needs, provides a home that is a haven of rest for him, never nags, never undermines him. She supports and encourages him on a regular basis. The love between them is always there. It is genuine, unmistakable, and free. It flows back and forth between the two of them effortlessly and magnificently.


But what about grace? There is no occasion for it! Both husband and wife are so perfectly loveable that each could scarcely help but love the other. Now suppose that one of them falls victim to a horrible disease. This disease causes his body to break out in putrid sores; the smell is almost unbearable. Not only that, but it also brings on fits of depression and irritation. He is unable to care for himself, let alone contribute to her happiness. In his pain and frustration he becomes demanding and obnoxious.


Then suppose that she continues to love him just as before. With tenderness and warmth she treats his wounds on a daily basis. When he lashes out at her, she never responds in kind. She continues her thoughtfulness and concern toward him. That would be grace! If the love in the first situation had real depth, it would continue undaunted in the second. Genuine love, when the occasion arises, will always be gracious. When real love encounters the undeserving, it becomes even more beautiful than it was before. It takes on the new glory of grace.


From: Joseph R. Cooke, Free for the Taking: The Life-changing Power of Grace (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company) p. 24.

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