The Scandal

We all filed into the court room and stood in front of our respective chairs to wait for orders.  “All rise for the Honorable Court!”  The judge walked in and promptly told us to be seated.  The case to be tried was between the State and a middle-aged woman, Brenda.*  The State had convicted her of a felony back in October 2011, and she now had the chance to plead her case.

We were sworn in, and then sat there in thick silence.  The lawyers gave their introductions, and onward we went.  Seven hours later we’d heard it all.  The charged crime gave no small consequences – certainly enough to ruin a life.  Was it necessary?

She’d made mistakes.  In fact, she’d made a lot of mistakes.  She was a complete and utter mess, a train wreck to say the least.  The State attorney presented her case professionally, convincingly, and accurately.  The State trooper testified against Brenda in the most polite and honest way; she had done her job the night of the crime.  And then Brenda was called up to the witness stand.

She should have just stopped the trial before it began.  Nearly everything she did, from the way she walked to the platform to the words she spoke, pointed against her cause.  She couldn’t keep the story straight.  She brought in new information partway through and tried to pass blame on others, including her own brother who was not in any way connected to the case.  All of a sudden she had every ailment the world could offer; her wrists were recovering from being broken, so the handcuffs hurt and the trooper should be sued; she had asthma and a fractured skull so she couldn’t physically complete some of the trooper’s tests; her anxiety caused her to do stupid things – the list went on and on.  She couldn’t answer the questions asked by the State.  She found the most inappropriate times to laugh.  Her performance in that courtroom was as misleading and deceptive as it was that night in October.

After the closing arguments we were put in a room for jury deliberation.  All of us were against her – not one of us believed her story.  We agreed that she was an absolute mess from head to toe, regardless of her claims.  She deserved the conviction, and the sentence that followed.  We just had to prove it.

We tried.  The twelve of us tried every possible angle, looking for some way to convict her.  But we had no evidence; it was one testimony against another.  No police reports, no medical records, no video tapes or images.  Nothing.  And nothing, when put against the defendant, yields exactly that – nothing!  She walked into that courtroom innocent until proven guilty.  No one, not even the State, could prove her guilty.  The worst part is that she knew it.  She manipulated and cried and worked the system to get her little self right out of there, free of charge.  It worked.

I got out to the car furious that justice hadn’t been given.  More accurately, that legally justice wasn’t able to be given.  It was a scandal – a big, fat, ugly scandal that deserved the worst.  Brenda was wrong, she is mentally and emotionally unstable, and she shouldn’t be allowed where she can endanger others. I wanted to march right back in there, look her in the eye, and tell her that not one of us jurors believed she was innocent.

And that’s when the Lord reminded me of another scandal.  One that I’d known about much longer than I’d known about this case.  A big, encompassing, beautiful scandal that boggles my mind.  You see, there was a Man who lived on earth and only did good.  He never did anything wrong; He helped people, healed people, gave people food and drink that would leave them forever quenched and full.  He even told them the Way of eternal life, and of peace and joy and love.

Yet people accused Him and brought Him before the court.  They ridiculed Him and hurled insults at Him; they beat Him and spit on Him.  And then they convicted an innocent Man and nailed Him to a cross with a crown of thorns pressed into His head and stripes of blood all over His chest and back.

But that’s not the scandal God reminded me of.  The scandal came three days later, when that same Man, Jesus, rose up from the grave and re-entered the world.  He re-entered the sin and the pain and the injustice.  He went back to the people who had crucified Him!  He revisited the people held down by sin and told them their chains had been lifted.  He revisited the people who mocked Him and said He’d forgiven them.  He revisited the one who had three times denied Him and gave him yet another chance.

That wasn’t what anyone was expecting.  That is the scandal of Grace.  Not one of us humans is deserving of anything good, yet that’s all that Jesus gives.  We fail Him and He never fails us.  He died and then rose, and conquered sin once and for all so that we never need to be separated from Himself.  Our sin no longer binds us; our mockery no longer keeps us away; our denial is only final at the end of our lives, not during them.

I think back to the court case and how unfair the outcome was.  I still believe Brenda deserves consequences for her actions; the Bible is clear that boundaries and regulations are necessary.  But I also think about my life and how unfair the outcome is – I’ve floundered in sin and made chaos out of peace and anger out of joy – and Jesus still says, “It is finished.”  Done.  He took my sin, paid the price, and pursues me desperately.  It’s a scandal that brings tears to my eyes because I know the injustice.  He didn’t have to do it; He could have left us here and watched us flail, or He could have said, “Enough!” and wiped us out completely.  But He didn’t.  He shows His perfect love regardless of what we do.

I pray you have the most blessed and joyful Easter.

 

 

*Name changed to protect privacy.

What Exactly is GRACE?

Grace is an action, a super-heroic action – but it is more than an action.

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Grace is a power, an extreme power – but it is more than a power.

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Grace is a mercy, an extreme mercy – but it is more than a mercy.

Grace is a kindness, an unmerited kindness – but it is more than kindness.

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Grace is a virtue, an exemplary virtue – but it is more than a virtue.

Grace is an historic event, an event that is central to all history – but it is more than an historic event.

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Grace is a gift, an unspeakable gift – but it is more than a gift.

Grace is a work, a legal work of atonement, propitiation, justification, redemption, forgiveness, and adoption – but it is more than a legal work.

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Grace is a life, a quickening, transforming life – but it is not an impersonal life.

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Grace is more than an action, a power, a mercy, a kindness, a virtue, an event, a gift, or a legal work.  Grace is a Person.

Grace is Jesus Christ – the loving action, the unstoppable power, the extreme mercy, the unmerited kindness, the exemplary virtue, the unspeakable gift, and the perfect rescuing work of God upon the Cross.  Grace is the Abundant Life of God made available in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus. is. Grace.*

*”The Manifold Wonder of Grace” by Eric Ludy.  Sermon found here: http://ellerslie.com/sermons/eric-ludy/12-9-12/the-manifold-wonder-of-grace

To You

Dearest Friend,

I know you want to be full of peace and content with where you are.  And I know that you want to be used solely and wholly for God’s Kingdom.  You want your life’s work to be so distinctly set apart for Him, so unique but so normal — normal for a lover of Christ, that is.  You want to be used, spent, given purpose.

But right now there are daily tasks that seem utterly meaningless.  Washing clothes and cleaning the bathroom — maybe those are meaningful,  being a good steward and thanking Him for what He’s given.  But what about filing papers?  What about the tedious things that seem to have nothing to do with Kingdom work?  How do you view these things as purposeful, things that actually matter?  Do they matter?

It seems like you’re wasting time.  You’re wanting more.  You want to make a difference, show Christ to someone, be able to stand before God and say that your life was worthwhile.  Yes, you messed up; yes, there were opportunities you didn’t take advantage of.  And maybe you’re wishing you could have those opportunities now, some way to pour yourself out.  But you’re stuck in that job with those people and those tasks and the rut grows deeper and deeper while your desire grows stronger and stronger.

From my heart, I sympathize with you.  I’ve had a taste of full-time, life’s-work ministry, and there’s nothing else I want as badly.  I’m working with Trades of Hope as a means of staying connected to missions in this time of waiting for God’s next step.  It is inspiring and fantastic, and I’m restless.  I want to be on the other side, with the women making the earrings and baskets and bags.  I want to get my hands dirty.  Think twice about drinking water from the tap.  Drive an hour with a van full of kids to get food from the market.  Fall into bed at the end of the day knowing that I was spent beyond my human capacity for the Name of Jesus.

Yet that’s not where I am right now.  And God has gently reminded me that I can choose to be okay with this here and now, or I can choose to go out of my mind and be miserable.  The latter would in fact be wasting time.  He reminded me that the little things matter.  Diligently filing papers matters.  Answering phone calls and ending with a “God bless” matters.  Picking up trash on the floor matters.  Smiling to customers matters.  {Imagine if no one did these things!}

“[God] ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’ eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Romans 2:6-10

I hope you take immense comfort in those verses.  God promises that no deed will go overlooked.  He counts the small things, even when you think they’re far too miniscule to matter.  He sees your heart, which is what matters.  And He loves you with the same crazy love whether you do a good deed or not.  Keep walking in faith, keep being faithful in the little things.  Remember that story Jesus told?  The parable of the talents; being faithful with the little things He gives.  “His lord said to him,  ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your lord’” (Matthew 25:23).

The joy of the Lord is your strength to go on, to praise, to be a blessing.  Stick to the course, and the next time Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.

With much love,

Your sister in Christ

Just a Quote…

…to spend some time thinking on.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Jim Elliot, missionary.

Lost his life ministering to a people who desperately needed Christ.

{suggested reading: Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot.}