In mid-March of this year a story greeted me as I checked my Facebook news feed. Soon it spread to news outlets across the state and beyond. The headline read, “Man Dumps dog, Pig, Outside Tuscarawas County Humane Society.”
I watched in disbelief as the video from the security camera showed a masked man tying a Golden Retriever to a post in front of our local humane society. He then placed a cage containing a pig beside the dog before driving away.
First my heart broke as I watched. The entire time this was transpiring the Golden’s tail was wagging, and she was trying to get as close to him as she could. He even appears to pat her on the head as he passed her for the last time. I couldn’t hold the tears back. In fact, in full disclosure I bawled like a baby.
How could he? The anger began to well inside me as I contemplated how anyone could be so heartless. How could he treat a living creature who obviously loved him like this?
The comments on the Facebook thread began to roll in. Seething with anger and condemnation. Then other comments began to appear defending the man. Stating that what he had done was a good choice. After all, they reasoned, he could have just set them loose in the woods or worse killed them.
So who is right? Is this man a monster who should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law or is he a kindhearted soul who had to make a hard decision? What if the answer is both?
Ohio law prohibits what he did but should we look the other way and not charge him with a crime as some advocated? Or should we “throw the book at him” without a hint of mercy as others wanted?
It really is true we want grace for ourselves and justice for others. What does God say about this and how does it apply not only to this situation but to us personally?
Galatians 6:7 tells us we will reap what we sow and Romans 8:1 says there is now no condemnation if we are in Christ. Is this a contradiction? The answer is no.
If we extend grace to someone does that erase the cost of their wrong choice? The truth is grace is not a get out of jail free card. Grace and consequences are not at odds with each other.
Should believers who have received forgiveness for our sins have to endure the results of our sin? The answer is, “Yes sometimes.”
Grace is relational. It is never earned or deserved; it is a gift. Consequences are circumstantial; their purpose is to teach us lessons we would not otherwise learn and remind us of God’s love for us despite our mistakes.
There are many examples in Scripture of grace with consequences but none more compelling than what Christ did on the cross for us. He took the punishment (consequences) we deserved so we can be forgiven (grace) and have a deep, abiding relationship with Him. And He has the scars to prove it.
We all have scars. How we view them is vital in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. I like to view them not as condemnation or retaliation but instead as a reminder of the mess my actions have made and God’s grace that refuses to let me remain trapped in my mess.
I am happy to report the story of Annie (the Golden Retriever) and Hermione (the pot-bellied pig) has a beautiful happy ending. Check it out here.
As for the man who abandoned them; authorities charged him and found him guilty under Ohio law for his actions. Why did he do it? I don’t know what his motives were, but he is now dealing with the consequences for his actions. And I choose to extend grace to him as I remember the grace I have received. I am also praying for him and his relationship with the greatest grace giver of all.
Not surprisingly, the announcement of his conviction unleashed another debate regarding ignoring his actions vs. punishment. The interaction between the differing viewpoints was not always civil. And this points to the fact we also need to extend grace to those we don’t agree with.’’
“Grace allows us to lean forward, even if we don’t agree with someone. It allows us to listen to, to understand – truly understand – and even disagree. It allows us to give dignity to the other person, to make sure they know they have been heard and seen. None of this means we need to agree with the person sitting across from us. Grace doesn’t mean losing your own perspective or agreeing for the sake of peace. But the power of Christ in us allows us to treat each person, when we agree and when we disagree, with gentleness and respect, by truly trying to understand them.” – Trueface meditation
How do you define grace? Do you believe it’s grace and consequences or are consequences opposed to grace?