God has been teaching me so much about how scandalous His grace is. This morning, I was reading one of my favorite bible stories, The Prodigal Son, and I couldn’t help but just stop and worship our Father. This story gives me chills every time. A son who was only looking after himself, wanting his share of the money and to be his own boss, leaves his father to live it up. But after his money runs out and he realizes how much he needs his dad, he starts for home. The son is a long way off and begins worrying if his dad will take him back. The father sees his son from a distance and takes off towards him. It was considered a humiliation for a middle-aged man to run and to lift his robe exposing his legs but he was so excited that his son was finally coming home. Before the son can begin apologizing, the father throws his arms around him and throws him a party.
It would make sense for the father to stand with his arms crossed in disappointment with a “That’ll teach you!” look yet he embraces him. I love how God uses story after story to show us how he can’t stop loving us, even when we’re unappreciative, when we’re undeserving, when we doubt his goodness. He doesn’t shame us. He rejoices that we are back, even though we’ve wandered. He runs towards us, pursues us, longs for us to come back home, and throws his arms around us. This grace is so scandalous because it doesn’t say, “I’ll do for you what you do for me” or “If you show appreciation, I’ll be glad to help out.” or “Why do you deserve my help when you haven’t earned it?” or “That’s what you get!” This grace is a scandalous, unconventional grace that says, “You didn’t deserve it but I gave it anyways. I’m going to give you everything even though I owe you nothing and you can do nothing for me. I am going to help you, even if you don’t deserve it.” This is the abundant grace of God that reaches into our hearts and moves us to worship Him.
So this morning, I’m asking the Lord, “How does this story fit in today? What are ways I am giving this grace and where are areas I’m withholding?” With the recent Colin Kaepenick story and the many emotions and opinions surrounding “Black Lives Matter” “Blue Lives Matter” “All Lives Matter”, I don’t want to be another unhelpful opinion slinger. I want to know, “How does grace fit in here? How does love and truth fit?” That question brought me back to the basics as I thought about how I respond to my children. This morning, my 2 year old fell and hurt her knee. It was a light fall, but with the fall came so much drama. But my first inclination was to comfort. I went to her, and kissed her boo boo. I asked what I could do to help. Even though I could have immediately responded with, “That’s what you get for playing on the chair when I told you not to.” or “That didn’t even hurt. Quit being a whiny baby.” Comforting my child came like second nature, but I thought about the areas where I may not be so quick to comfort others, but rather, name call, diagnose others and stand in judgement. I’ve heard people who claim to follow Jesus label someone who may speak out against oppression as a “whiny baby” or “entitled, ungrateful punk”. While there could be elements of ungratefulness or disrespect in how people are communicating, it’s clear there are some very real hurts. I can’t help but wonder when we respond with name calling, are we helping or hurting? Even when sometimes, I may not understand the pain. Or maybe the person is responding dramatically but that doesn’t mean the pain underneath the behavior doesn’t exist. I may not feel their pain but could I shut up for a sec, enter into their pain and just listen? I thought about how my 2 year old may have responded if I said, “I have done so much for you by baby-proofing this house. I’ve made it nearly impossible for you to get hurt yet you get hurt anyways. Besides, there are people that have been through much worse. They’ve fallen and broken bones, and you don’t even have a mark. You are the one that caused this pain by being on the chair I told you not to get on.” With so many oppurtunities to connect and to empathize, I have just lost so much trust and created so much frustration in her heart because I won’t even attempt to empathize. I’ve created distance and instead of building relationship by saying, “I hear you. I see you. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m here for you”, I’ve pushed her away because she feels like mommy doesn’t try to understand her pain or even offer a lick of comfort. Yet, we do this. When people say, “This hurts”, we say, “Suck it up. People have been through worse.” Is that the way of Jesus? What does God mean when he commands us to weep with those who weep? (Romans 12:15) He doesn’t say “weep with those who weep if you think what they are weeping about is reasonable.” He says to meet them in their weeping, to come alongside them, and to empathize. Period. He says to become all things to all people, that by all means we might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:22) He says that he comforts us in our troubles so we may be able to give others the same comfort in their troubles. (1 Corinthians 1:4) When it’s easy to be harsh and want to “tell everyone like it is”, he says that a gentle word turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1) Does all of this mean we can never speak truth? Absolutely not. God is a god of grace and truth (Ephesians 1:4-6) I pray that the Holy Spirit would give us wisdom and discernment on when to comfort and weep and when to offer truth in love. When we do meet our brothers and sisters in their hurting and we empathize with them, then maybe we can come alongside them and help them wrestle through these heavy emotions. And how should that love look when we speak it? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says “ Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” May we lay aside name calling and being experts at diagnosing everyone and ask if we’ve done our part to offer compassion and grace .May we get back to the basics of comforting people when they say, “This hurts.” May we resist the urge to give facts at the expense of comforting. May we seek to help when we speak words of truth instead of cut down and may we not forget the grace that God has so generously given us before we climb onto our soapboxes. May love mark us instead of our strong opinions. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3