Where Grace Abounds
Those in desperate need of a doctor are not the healthy,
But the sick
Those who are in need of water
Are the thirsty
Those who are in need of a meal
Are the hungry
Those who are in need of covering
Are the naked
Those in need of freedom
Are the enslaved
Those who are in need of mercy
are the accused
Those who are in need of forgiveness
Are the unforgiven..and the unforgiving
Those who are in need of grace
Are the condemned.
Funny, so often the “those in need” are pointed to from afar. They are distant. They are not “us”. They are “those”, those who have succumbed to circumstance or pressure and found themselves in a difficult or even desperate situation.
But it is often presumptuous to think that one tragedy,one illness, one job loss, one terrible mistake of the moment could not put any one of us in the “those” category. The dominoes can start falling on any given day, and the awareness of that can make us cautious and aware, and also deeply thankful for and appreciative of the blessings in our lives. It can also move us in compassion to bridge the gap between the “those” and “these”. Awareness that we could easily stand on either side of being a “these” or a “those” can quickly and efficiently remove barriers.
“Except for the grace of God, there go I” John Bradford said as he saw prisoners being led to execution. And later, that is exactly what happened to him. He was a law student in the 1500s. Then, he became involved in the Protestant faith and went to the University of Cambridge for religious studies. He did so many right things. During his imprisonment, he wrote, studied the New Testament, and waited. He waited for release or execution. He was executed for his faith. Burned at stake.
Sorry to be a downer…but bad things do indeed happen to good people. Terrible, tragic, awful, heat-wrenching things happen every single day. And maybe an awareness of that can help us to so appreciate the good. To “hate evil and cling to what is good.”(Romans 12:9) CLING to what is good. Cling to, hold on to what is right, not focus on the condemnation of what is wrong. Hate the evil. Acknowledge it. But move beyond it. Cling to what will bring a solution, or bring freedom from the problem.
Grace covers. It covers and protects. It shelters. It is undeserved. Undeserved. In the same way that lighting changes our view of things, grace changes the way we look at others in their situation. What motivates being full of grace? Often, it is the awareness of grace received, and the need to receive it. Bottom line, none of us are perfect.
So here’s the thing. It is not my job to condemn. I believe we will all give an account for our choices and the impact they made on us and those around us. Condemning others or focusing on wrongs done keeps me down as well as the one I am accusing. In the Bible, Satan is called the accuser. He is the one who digs up the dirt in our lives and throws it back at us to keep us feeling condemned. But Jesus tells us to deal and heal. He tells us to turn from the sin that is destructive, and move on. Move on. The joy of knowing forgiveness is a motivator, that’s for sure. I love the verse that says that “God’s loving kindness leads to repentance.”
So often, people view Christians as condemning of others for their behavior. There is a difference between choosing to follow Christ and be obedient to Godly principles, and choosing to follow Christ and look down on others who don’t. I think one of my favorite stories of the Bible is the one in which the adulteress is caught in the act, and is brought before others to condemn her to her death. Each stone thrown would be an accusation of guilt, and a condemnation of sin with the end of death. But Jesus? What did he say? “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” He was the ONLY one without sin. And he didn’t cast the stone. But the Bible says that one by one, from the oldest to the youngest, the accusers walked away.
It is not surprising that the first ones to drop their stones were the older generation. It is also not surprising that after all was said and done, that there was no one there to accuse. Jesus looked at the woman and told her to “Go and sin no more.” Did compassion and forgiveness motivate this woman to leave her sin behind and make better choices? I hope so, but I don’t know. But I do know that compassion and forgiveness, can be huge motivators to move in the right direction. Condemnation keeps us so down. The “these” in the story become the “those” by realizing the truth of Jesus’ challenge: He who is without sin cast the first stone. These men who were so ready to condemn, realized they could easily be in the same situation as that woman on the ground. The “these” realized they were indeed the “those”.
The Bible says that we will be judged according to the way that we judge others. Pretty heavy stuff. It says that we should deal with our own sin way before trying to fix someone else. Trying to get a speck of dust out of someone’s eye while having a “log” in our own is a pretty good visual given in the Bible. Get your own house in order before you try to get someone else’s life in order. Be the one who helps them get it in order, instead of just looking in disgust at the ones being condemned. Those who condemn often are often embittered without even realizing it. Like the old saying goes, “When you point at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at you.”
I’m not sure what has me on this rant right now. I guess I’m tired of hearing about people talking badly about others. And I am not saying that we are to condone things that have no business being condoned. Not at all. This is not about license to sin. This little dialogue is about freedom to forgive and help people move on. Grace covers, but it doesn’t condone. There really is such a thing as loving the sinner and hating the sin. Grace acknowledges the need and nakedness, but meets the need to be covered and encouraged. Grace covers.
Paul, in Romans 7 is in despair about how the very things he hates to do, he ends up doing, and the things he doesn’t want to do, he does. Yep, Paul, the apostle. The one who so gave his life to spread the gospel of Jesus. The one who lived as a Pharisee, a holy judge of others, before he came to a saving knowledge of Jesus and the gospel that frees. He died sharing that gospel, and never turned back. He is the one in Romans 7 despairing of still not being quite where he wants to be spiritually. But then…then comes Romans 8! Yes!! “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8 goes on, building with hope and freedom until it comes to it’s crescendo in Romans 8:38-39 where it says “For I am convinced that ………………NOTHING……………. will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Nothing can separate. But Christians who are condemning, can deter others from understanding the grace in Christ. Christians, well-meaning Christians who are fixated on fixing rather than freeing…we can be the ones who are a wall between others walking in the understanding of the grace that is offered in Christ Jesus or living in condemnation.
Again, it’s a long post. I don’t know if anyone will even make it to the end. But it is of great concern to me that we don’t take the “Judge not, lest you be judged” command seriously. What a waste of time, energy, and gospel. Would that we would drop our stones quickly, and help point to a better way rather than condemn with accusations that look down.