Thursday, March 18, 2010


As a pastor, I get to see and hear a lot of different things. Funny, I grew up in a pastor’s house and remember the whisperings of my parents who were no doubt trying to keep these kinds of stories from me. The stories run the gamut of topics, some of them are funny, some of them are sad, some make you angry, and some simply stun you as you wonder whether you’re dreaming at the absurdity of it all.

I have listened to people talk about the abuse that they have endured over long periods of time. I’ve sat in court waiting rooms with people who had to come face to face with their attackers. I have entered hospital rooms of recently deceased people as their families sat stunned at the reality of life that they were now facing. I’ve counseled people who had been convicted of things that would keep me from wanting my children around them. I’ve visited prisons and tried to act as if the idea of being there didn’t scare the crap out of me.

One thing that I have consistently seen in all of these situations is the grace of God. Ironically, that grace has more often than not come from unexpected places. I’ve seen people who by right should be bitter, angry, and unforgiving who have come to love and forgive the people who have caused them unspeakable pain. When I see this, I can’t help but stand in amazement at the God who has given them that grace.

As we approach the Easter season, I am reminded of Jesus’ words while on the cross, hanging naked in front of the very people who so desperately longed to see him there. Luke 23:34 reads, “Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” Jesus exercised grace to the ones who had hurt him. That grace that was depicted in his crucifixion was just a glimpse into the grace that God had been exercising for years with His people. They had constantly run away from Him and been unfaithful, prostituting themselves with false gods and idols, pursuing their own selfish desires for a season before returning to the God who had been so gracious to them with repentant hearts.

Grace is a funny thing. We all love to receive it, but don’t have the easiest time giving it. In the midst of some of my experiences, I have desperately prayed that God would save my judgmental heart and help me to extend grace to people. It’s hard! Some situations more than others! But I have always had to think about how I would be feeling had I been standing or sitting where they were. I have seen too many cases in my own life where a few missteps past where I had gone could have landed me in situations where I may have needed more grace in the eyes of humanity than I did. I’ve thought to myself, “If I were them, how would I want me to react?”

Self-preservation seems to be an innate behavior. We all want to protect ourselves and the ones that we love. Sometimes our reactions are based on this self-preservation, but it’s not the healthiest thing all the time. Sometimes, we need to move past it to get to the place of grace. Grace and self-preservation don’t really coexist well together. In fact, I don’t think that they can. To get to that place of grace, we need to shed the armor of self-preservation and allow ourselves some vulnerability. That vulnerability might hurt, it might cause us pain, but it will allow us to be more like the One whom we follow. It will allow us to understand a little bit more exactly what He went through in order to redeem a fallen world and make a way to restore creation’s relationship with their Creator.

I can’t say that I never have a hard time with grace, that would be a lie (which I would need grace to be forgiven of), but I try. Next time you encounter a situation where grace is necessary, ask yourself how you would feel if you were on the other end of the situation. Chances are you’d want the grace that you may be hesitant to give. None of us will live lives in which we won’t need a little grace, let’s show a little grace in return.

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