A Collision with Grace

I would’ve never expected it, but the most important lesson I’ve learned so far in 2024 came from a car accident… and it was my fault.

In mid-January, I was leaving my neighborhood just like I do every morning and got caught at the same annoying stoplight as always. Only this time, my tires found on a patch of black ice and my car continued to scoot forward, despite me repeatedly and desperately jamming on the brake. I was helpless as my car nudged onward and connected with the back of the car in front of me.

A combination of panic and despair washed over me. What was this going to cost? What would it do to my insurance rates? What would my wife (a much more careful driver than I) have to say to me? My brain was so muddled that I took a beat to gather myself as the other driver got out and examined his bumper. It was during the 14th round of cursing my carelessness that he turned around and did something I never expected.

He gave me a thumbs up. Then he got back in his car and drove away.

I sat there, stunned, for at least ten seconds. The grace this man had shown me was unbelievable. If he’d even noticed the tiniest nick on his bumper, he could’ve charged me to replace the whole thing, a very pricey venture. But rather than take advantage of the situation, he let me off the hook scot-free. He gained nothing from this act of kindness, but he let me go anyway.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better example of God’s grace. It brings to mind Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” I did nothing to earn this guy’s kindness; in fact, by hitting him with my car, I’d done just the opposite! His only experience with me was a poor one, and yet he still decided to extend the grace that I absolutely didn’t deserve.

Think of how many times we see this from Jesus. Sure, Jesus brought truth, too, and he wasn’t afraid to rattle some cages when needed. But he also had a knack for showering incredible grace on people who didn’t deserve it. He restored Peter, one of his closest and most beloved friends, after Peter betrayed him and denied even knowing Jesus during his trial. He appeared to Saul, a man famous for imprisoning and murdering Christians, and rather than harm him, turned his life around.

This is unthinkable grace. This is unmistakable love.

But maybe the best example comes in John 8:1-11. As Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, the religious leaders burst in and threw a woman at his feet. She was guilty of adultery, which, according to Old Testament law, was punishable with death by stoning. So, consider Jesus’ situation here. He doesn’t know this woman at all, and given this woman’s promiscuous nature, it’s probably safe to assume she’s not a follower of his. Her sin is the reason Jesus had to come to earth and separate himself from his father. No one would blame Jesus if he had a neutral, if not negative, disposition towards the woman. On top of all that, the religious leaders were trying to use this situation to trick Jesus. If he said the wrong thing, they’d bring it against him and his ministry. There’s a lot riding on his response. The path of least resistance would be to be to either wash his hands of the situation or disavow the woman. He owes her nothing, and she presents great risk to his standing in the community.

Bottom line, Jesus has no reason to stick up for her. And yet, he challenged the religious leaders: “Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, the subdued religious leaders melted away, unable to counter Jesus’ response. Eventually, just the woman remained.

I can only imagine her posture in this moment: quiet, head down, unable to meet the gaze of this man who’d just saved her life. All the shame and humiliation of her actions and her inability to properly thank Jesus anchored her eyes to the floor.

“Woman, where are they?” Jesus asked. “Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she responded.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

This is unthinkable grace. This is unmistakable love. Look at that final sentence. When we receive God’s grace, we need to respond. We’re called to leave our life of sin, and we’re expected to pay that grace forward. Little did I know how quickly I would get the opportunity to do just that.

About two months after the little fender bender, roughly 100 feet from the spot of my infraction, I was waiting at a stop sign when suddenly my entire car shuddered. The car behind me hit me at a good speed, and I was certain there was going to be a good amount of damage.

“That idiot!” My anger and annoyance flashed before I could even catch them. But then I remembered my grace-filled friend and his thumbs up, and immediately my rage subsided. If that man could extend such grace to me, who was I to withhold it from this driver? I calmly pulled over and got out to find that there was extremely little damage to my vehicle. The other driver apologized profusely, and I let him know that it was OK. Because that man had shown me grace months ago, I felt called to do so in this similar situation.

Jesus set a high standard when it comes to grace, one that we flawed humans cannot hope to uphold. But the more we remind ourselves of the grace he showed, the more likely we are to extend it to others and show them a bit of God’s goodness.

Who’s someone who could use some grace from you lately? Send them a text or call them this week.

Dan Hoppen