Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17
There is story I once heard about a prison warden who dramatically changed the prison he worked at in the Southern United States with the power of grace. He started introducing prisoners to the concept of the Gospel and positioning them to recognize their own brokenness and allow the grace of Jesus into their life. During the course of the warden’s tenure at the prison, many people accepted Christ and the fruits of that played out in lower re-offending rates, better rehabilitation, and better reintegration into society after release.
It is a classic story of change toward good! But the point that stuck with me from the story is a quote from a prisoner. When one prisoner was asked about his personal life change and how he ended up doing so much good with his own life, he replied, “Forgiven much—love much.”
This is almost exactly the Apostle Paul’s story. We like to sugar-coat the story of Paul sometimes in a Sunday-school friendly way. Paul was a bad man who met Jesus and then started being a “good Christian.” But Paul (formerly Saul) wasn’t just convicted of crimes against believers because he didn’t have good legal representation; he was actually proud of the fact that he attacked Christians. He took pride in the fact that he was cleansing the area of the Christian seed that was becoming so prolific. The story says that Paul ravaged Christian households dragging men and women off to prison. It also said that he “approved” of killing Christians. That is until he met Jesus (read the story in Acts 7-9).
Saul, the great defiler of the church, became Paul, the planter of many churches when he had a powerful encounter with grace. Just like the prisoner who said, “Forgiven much—love much,” Paul wrote this to Timothy: “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy…and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:12-14) Forgiven much—love much.
Because of the incredible abundance of grace that Paul felt from Jesus, he was “overflowing” with it for others. In leadership, you must start with grace. But you cannot start with grace out of nowhere, you must experience yourself. Then with the grace you have received, you can “overflow” it onto others.
Paul doesn’t become bloated in his thinking of himself as an apostle, but rather calls himself the “foremost among sinners.” He names himself the biggest bad guy, the worst of the worst. In doing this he is saying that because he has been forgiven for so much, his capacity for love is greater still. “But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience.” Paul doesn’t even take credit for his loving people, but rather says that Christ can show that through him.
When leaders live out of grace themselves, they can so much better pour it onto others. “Forgiven much—love much.”
- Where in your life have you receive grace or mercy?
- What did it feel like to be granted grace?
- How can receiving grace make us more patient or more loving with others?
- Are there aspects of your life in which you could show more “overflowing” grace?
- How does abundant grace affect leadership?