Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Grace

Recently, I preached at the funeral of a man killed in an officer-related shooting.  This was a difficult situation from all sides.  My heart broke for this young man’s father that day, and still does.  No loving parent wants to see their child struggle but also knows that they can’t control the choices their child makes.  One can only imagine the depth of pain and grief this father bares.

As I prepared for my sermon, I became convicted of two things: I would not sugar-coat this man’s life or make excuses for his behavior.  Yet at the same time, I would not hold back from proclaiming the grace of God—boldly.  I started to see that the way this father grieved for his son was but a glimpse of how God’s heart breaks when any of his beloved children are led astray. 

Scripture tells us that Jesus ate with sinners, blessed those whom others had ridiculed, and died on the cross for all.  That doesn’t mean he condoned all behavior; but God didn’t wait for any of us to get it right before he offered us his radical love and grace either.  When we submit our hearts fully to him, we are able to experience the fullness of this sheer gift, but ultimately, God’s grace is not dependent on us being able to understand or accept it.

What I learned from being involved with this funeral was that in any situation like this, there are no winners.  The amount of grief felt by those involved on all sides is not enviable.  However, at times, Christians can add grief rather than comfort to some situations by pointing fingers or assuming they have a corner on the truth. 
 
My only hope is that when these things do happen, we may be able to see those involved (and their families) as fellow people and extend to them a measure of compassion—in our thoughts, our prayers, and our actions.

The Apostle Paul tells us in the book of Romans that nothing—not even death— can separate us from the love of God.  What I’m reminded of when I hear these words is how inclusive “nothing” really is.  As good of news as this is, it can make some people uncomfortable, perhaps because we live in a quid pro quo world, where we are used to getting something for something.  But thinking like can lead to thinking that our faith and our salvation are dependent upon an equal rate of exchange between God and us.

Yet, the very essence of God is to give and grant life.  In my own experience, I have learned that more often than not, the radical nature of God’s grace and love doesn’t make sense.  But most of the time, that’s what makes it so good.

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