Grace and Forgiveness

I’ve been thinking long and hard about grace and forgiveness. I’ve watched friends and family dish these gifts out capriciously. In my mind I was pretty sure these wonderful things were reserved for those who were lined up with God’s standards of goodness. I was sure these favors were reserved for people whose lives followed the goodness rules established by the Methodist, Baptists, Presbyterians, or even Catholics. These have to be limited to those who’ve completed a prescribed set of guidelines or rules or even scriptures?

Over the years I’ve watched what I thought were well-meaning Christians apply the grace and forgiveness gifts in reserved ways. They’ve been doled out to some and kept back from others who both appeared to have needed them. At times it’s seemed that the ones who may have received these blessings needed it much less than the ones prevented from receiving them.

After careful thought I’ve come to the conclusion that neither camp should be giving or getting any grace or forgiveness at all. Those who’ve been giving or applying grace and forgiveness have no right whatsoever to be giving away something reserved for God who sits in heaven.

There’s a reason it’s called God’s grace and forgiveness because it’s His alone to dispense. And when he casts those gifts over his children he does so with such lavishness that it almost seems unfair, doesn’t it? God owns it all and owns us all. He decides when, where and who gets the salve of his love.

I have family and friends who have severely fractured relationships. Some are heartbreaking. Broken relationships are always hard to understand and even harder to decipher and accept. People claiming to know and serve our gracious God have become judges, juries and executioners. Husbands, wives, fathers, sons and daughters have been given what seems like death sentences with no possible reprieve. If I’m grieved about it, can you imagine how God must view this mass destruction and hatefulness?

I write this in the hope that someone reading might realize this error and end any war that you are a party to – this very moment.

Love and forgive as God has loved and forgiven you. Anything less is a hurdle and hindrance in your pursuit of God. You cannot serve God completely when something is so openly wrong in your life.

They Took Him Down Alright

The Lord Jesus Christ had an excruciating week leading up to his death. The religious leaders couldn’t take him any longer. He was a threat to their way of life. They thought that the laws they so carefully tried to follow were being mocked by this man. Yet he looked beyond the detail of the law and saw people and he saw their need. He knew people didn’t need a strict adherence to a set of rules and regulations. They needed a kinsman redeemer.

They found a judge in that Thursday night who probably owed them favors. And with a trumped up trial after hours they brought their so-called charges against this man Jesus. With the help of a kangaroo court this sinless man fell in the hands of an angry mob. They handled him as if he was less than a human. Little did they know he was much much more.

Yet this man who’d loved others beyond explanation submitted himself to torturous pain. He could have ended this horror with a single word or thought. Yet in the dark of this night he would allow his mocking crowd to do their bidding. In the crowd that night there were possibly some of the very people who’d witnessed him heal a blind man or raise his dead friend from a tomb.

Anguish and humiliation continued through the night. This man was not getting away with his crimes of passion. A determination had been made to end him, once and for all. So they took him down alright.

They probably wondered how this man could’ve endured the beating that he’d already taken and still be alive and conscious.  In his final hours he still had the compassionate thought to reach out to another condemned man. The doomed soul beside him realized that this man Jesus had to me more than just a common man, not just by the way he lived by by the way he was dying. Even in his final agony this common thief received the passion of the Christ, and he believed.

So under the watchful curious eye of bystanders the execution of this Galilean carpenter came to an end. Even in his final gasps of breath he was asking his father to forgive his executioners. This was evidence enough to show that he was more than just a man. So they had their way took him down.

This story must be over.

Toast… in the Eyes of the Law

 

Courtroom settings are familiar scenes. We’ve seen them in television dramas or experienced them first hand as a plaintiff, defendant or juror.

The nervousness of being there has different emotion levels. If there as a juror you are wide eyed and all ears, wanting to be the best listener you can be. Being there as a plaintiff brings a degree of seriousness and determination to present your side of the story and win your case. But being there as a defendant is in a class all its own. You are on trial. Your life is on the line. Everything hangs in the balance. All eyes are on you and you are being judged. Total strangers only know basics of your case. Just from a first glance or few words spoken you are being judged by every person in the room based on nothing more than primary facts.

All cases before a judge or jury have things entered as evidence that support the charge. Witnesses are called to either support the facts or cloud the facts from the view of the accused. But as the facts are presented against you, it seems the cards are stacked against you. You answer back with your view of the charge. But the more the prosecution presents, the more you know you are sunk and have no hope in redeeming yourself.

This backdrop of a courtroom scene is so you can see what I think it might be like when we one day stand before our creator God and answer the charge against us as sinners. There will be plenty of evidence for a conviction and very little, if any, facts supporting our innocence.

But in that grand courtroom that we all will face, in will come a couple of surprises. Mercy and grace show up to testify on your behalf. Miss Grace is a lady who shows up with complete favor and gives you more goodness than you’ll ever deserve, for no apparent reason. Mr. Mercy however, shows up and removes the charge against you, even though the evidence clearly shows you should be convicted and doomed.

It’s not only that we will have been released from the charges against us, but we’ve been given a gift instead of judgment. How can I leave the place of judgment with a clean slate and awards to boot? It is only because our gracious and merciful God loves the heck out of us for some reason.

When you think you are destined for destruction and ruin one day, remember that Mercy and Grace can show up on your behalf, if you’ve trusted in the judge of all creation.