The concept of grace is overwhelming to me sometimes. As humans we are not wired to overlook shortcomings of other people . Consider that God is perfection and if there was one thing he could certainly have the rights and privelege to do it would be to judge us for our imperfections, our “falling short of”-isms . Thankfully that is not in his character.
I am reflecting on grace because of a conversation I recently had with someone. As we talked it was very clear that we approach life with the same theology, but drastically differently when it comes to measuring grace to others. I must be honest and tell you that one of those pervasive and often invasive sins in my life has been critical judgement. I am very convicted by God of being judgemental of others. The Lord has shown such deep measures of grace to me throughout my life….giving me what I do not deserve…that I am compelled to take a deep breath, exhale and fire out a prayer to ask God to let me see that person through the lord’s eyes before I speak, think or in any way provide judging words.
There was a tangible moment many years ago when this point hit home. Steve and I were at Wheaton College for a large mission conference. Browsing the various vendor booths a short man with a very grumpy appearance, wrinkley old suit, strange accent, wicked garlic breath, odd mannerisms stepped from his booth and said to both of us “Romania needs you, and God is calling…will you go?”. Odd thing for someone who does not know you to say. We wrote him off as in the same group as those wild street preachers that shout “the end is near!”
An hour later we arrived at the main auditorium to find out the key note speaker was this frumpy man. He was Josef Tsan, an evangelist from Romania. His story of reaching his people for Christ read like the book of Acts….jailed, tortured, and finally exiled to the west where he was building the kingdom through sourcing out workers, funds and supplies. The Romanian government threw Jim out of the country because every time they detained him guards and jail keepers were getting saved. Wow.
There was nothing about his appearance that indicated how God has used this man….but when he spoke there was a clear and compelling story of a God led adventure to tell the world about Jesus.
Then it occurred to me this described Jesus also…nothing distinct, nothing out of the ordinary. His clothes were average, and his carpentry apprenticeship would have also been average. But average he was not. I love the passage in phillipians known as the kenosis- Phil 2:1-6…Barb paraphrase goes like this: god, all powerful and with the vast wealth of creation latest aside his power, his glory, and stepped into this sin scarred world to complete a work noone else could. He limited himself, and lived as a man.
The pharasees judged him, the culture of his day wanted the flashy miracles, not the hard challenges to follow him. Few looked beyond the facade of “the carpenter’s son” to see the messiah of the world. Now I am not comparing anyone to Jesus, but using that as a point…we don’t always see what is truth, masked under layers. Judgement is wired inside us. But judgement should be balanced by grace.