By Pastor Andrew
I know that this is a topic that has been preached probably a million times over, but it is a topic that I believe Christians struggle with and get wrong quite often. Second chances… We all know and believe that because Jesus died on the cross, a propitiation for our sins, we have a renewed lease on the opportunity for restored fellowship with the Lord. “There but by the grace of God” often becomes our life’s mission statement as we profess our gratitude for the second….third…. and even thirtieth chance that we claim through Jesus’ grace which defeats our sins and cancels out our mistakes as proclaimed by us. Grace is a beautiful thing to be confident in, but I fear that often times Christians treat it like a rubber band stretching it to see just how far they can stretch it, or worse, begin to make their own determination of where and how grace is applied in their lives.
Years ago, the WWJD phrase was popular among both saved and unsaved alike but today I often find my self wondering WWJS (what would Jesus say). What would he say as we forgive ourselves for our sins and mistakes without ever even talking to the Lord? As we liberally self-apply grace, what would Jesus say as we boguard that grace like one who tends to collect the seasoning containers at one end of the dinner table, refusing to share that grace similarly to refusing to pass the salt.
We live in a time where the vast majority of people believe that their own opinion or way of doing things is correct or the way that things should be done while rejecting anything that challenges their perceived opinion of rightness. I will point out here the word I used was rightness, not righteousness. Relativism cannot be mistaken for righteousness as I am pretty sure if God evaluated each of our personal opinions and methodologies, we would all be found severely lacking and probably left dumbfounded. Opinions make us unique, different than the next person; however, they also reveal the character and content of our hearts. Something that I find demoralizing is watching or discussing the news with other people. It is not because I find the news depressing (we live in a fallen world; therefore, I am not depressed when I hear how fallen the world is) but rather, it is the opinionated responses that seemingly become necessary to state by those who I am watching or discussing with. It is not that I don’t value the opinions of others, because I do; however, its when those opinions begin to contradict what I know and believe to be biblical truth that I become disheartened. The news reports hate, violence, hurt, suffering, sex, politics, and crime more than anything else, and they do that because it sells. That is what draws people in and that is disturbing as well because as much as people complain about what is reported, they continue to buy it, encouraging the production of it and revealing more of their heart… I digress… I can recall countless responses to terrible news (news through media as well as word of mouth), terrible crimes, and even relatively minor offenses that were filled with anger, hate, and judgment. Responses that people who commit offenses of varying degrees should be locked up with the key thrown away, beaten, castrated, electrocuted, executed, and the list goes on and on.
I recall when our armed forces went after Bin Laden and the news broke of his death in the raid there was public rejoicing by people of all beliefs and races. I remember just reflecting on this, numerous thoughts going through my head as the mastermind behind the attacks that triggered a movement that could be titled Generation Kill named so for the desire for the death of so many in retribution. I lost brothers in more ways than just death to this movement, and while the end of Bin Laden should have brought some satisfaction, it did not. My sister in-law posted on facebook that day remarking to the effect that as sinners, we deserve death as well… There but by the grace of God… Public rejoice for the death of a sinner, judgement issued in the minds of countless people, countless believers, when hearts and our prayers should have been focused on Jesus and perhaps wondering if he had only known the love of Christ.
There but by the grace of God…should not we be facing death as well.
Matthew 7:1-3 says,
“‘Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged’”.
Let’s for a moment take the rubber band of grace out of our own hands for a minute and reflect on the word of God, spoken by the master of grace himself… Jesus…. “for you will be treated as you treat others”… I remember falling short of God’s glory on a seemingly catastrophic level, in fact I can remember numerous times that I have fallen short of His glory as can probably everyone reading this post and then some. Imagine each time you made a mistake, gave in to temptation and sinned, the executioner was standing around the corner and everyone you knew was ecstatically celebrating, finding joy in your suffering and demise.
Really think about it, you are going to die, and people are excited for your death…
There but by the grace of God, you are saved by His grace and no one is ready to celebrate your physical and spiritual destruction and an eternity spent in hell, but we will express those feelings to others?? Perhaps that rubber band of grace we have been stretching all these years has slipped off our fingers and popped us in the eye because somewhere along the line, we have failed to see that grace is not just for us, but Anyone who accepts Christ. Perhaps the words were blurred trying to read passages such as this through watering eyes smacked by grace, grace received instead of a penalty of death.
I will not rejoice in the punishment of others. I thank God frequently that I have not been a judge appointed over man because I know that my flesh at some point would get the better of me and my own opinionated vengeance would at some point be thrust upon a perpetrator instead of the grace that has been shown to me once, twice, and even thirty times over. I do not envy the job of judges, lawyers, and law enforcement as they have to make difficult decisions and enforce a system of laws that issue consequences to actions that can easily be blurred with personal opinions, feelings, and emotions. I pray that they seek the Lord daily before performing their much-needed duties. While I do not believe that forgiveness exempts one from punishment, perhaps letting the Lord work His way instead of turning our hearts into the judge, jury, and executioner may result in eternally longer results. Instead of stretching our rubber bands of grace within the limits of our own personal bubble of protected space condemning others, we can wrap it around our hand in rubber band gun fashion and send grace flying where it needs to go, given with the same measure it was given to us.