I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my personal journey in faith. As I have walked this path, I’ve messed up so many things, and hurt some people along the way as well. I have some acquaintances that are more atheistic in their beliefs, and in many cases, are such due to the way Christians have treated them. This makes me wonder about those that I’ve had contact with over the last 16 years…about my affect on them…with my jackassery (yes that word is necessary for this description)…with my arrogance…with my ignorance.I think back over conversations I’ve had…in which I was speaking to people about my beliefs…which at that point in time were more republican-based than Bible-based…and I think about how much I would love to be able to take back…but I can’t. That’s the way it works. Time marches on and we wish that we had a magic eraser for certain points in the timeline of our lives. I’ve misrepresented God, misinterpreted Him, spoken awful things about others in His Name, been dishonest, manipulative, angry, hateful, arrogant, negligent, boastful, boastful, BOASTFUL…and did I mention that I have been boastful? And let’s not forget the all-time favorite thing Christians struggle with: I’ve been a total hypocrite.
I used to truly enjoy arguing with people about things like the existence of God, politics, science, and so on…and the key word is, “argue.” Discussion is healthy, but honestly I was a jerk and I really had myself convinced that I was doing the Lord’s work. I believed I was “fixing” people…by correcting their worldviews and what I perceived to be their errors. I had no problem telling someone that they were in sin and needed to repent, even if it was something that is not as cut-and-dry as I thought it was. If they walked away from the relationship, I told myself that they just couldn’t handle the truth of God…after all…I had it all figured out. I once spent about 6 hours talking down to an individual for their belief in evolution…never listening to them at all…never caring what their opinion really was…only caring about what I had to say.
What’s amazing is that throughout all of these times, there have always been friends that have stuck by me. I started to list you all by name, but stopped for fear of missing one…let me just say that you know whom you are. My wife and daughters obviously top that list. When I think of the ways I’ve treated them in the past, with such a bull-headed approach to life, I’m amazed that they have never walked away from me. But what’s even more amazing…mind-blowing…is that God has never slowed down a bit in His rabid pursuit for my heart and soul…even when my heart and soul were at the most undesirable stage…He never let up…He never walked away…He never stopped listening…never stopped loving…NEVER LET GO. His appetite for me continued to be insatiable, and His passion unwavering…His patience eternal…His heart forgiving.
A friend recently told me that they had made a pretty serious mistake recently and they were concerned about whether or not the Lord was going to deal out some punishment for what they had done. I thought about that for a while. I was amazed to consider that in all that the Bible says about grace and mercy, we still gravitate toward justice. We tend to believe that God is going to deal a judging blow to us for our lack of obedience to Him…but that’s not mercy…and it’s not grace. I’ve heard it said that God is a just God. I believe it…and I also don’t…because if He were truly just, wouldn’t He cast me and everyone like me to the lowest pit? Wouldn’t He send me out of His presence for all eternity? Isn’t that justice…to discard the useless vessel? But that’s not what He did…no…He gave me mercy…which is when I DON’T get what I DO deserve…and He gave me grace…which is when I DO get what I DON’T deserve. He does this because He exercised justice upon His very own Son, and broke His body, tore His flesh, pummeled His soul, shattered His heart, forsook His identity…all on my behalf…and yours. So God is just to Himself, but merciful and gracious to us.
I know this is perhaps nothing new to you. It’s just been on my mind lately, and I can’t shake the thought of how He absolutely loves us…and it makes me feel so…humbled. I don’t feel guilty. He has taken my guilt. I don’t feel shameful. He has taken my shame. I feel humbled because on my behalf, He was humiliated. I feel fortunate. I feel blessed. This God…this Jesus…this Savior…loves the unlovable, pursues the disinterested, and transforms the grotesque. He’s not looking to settle the score between us and Him…He settled it within Himself. He’s not looking to dole out judgment…He’s offering grace.
For future reference, please forgive my arrogance…my ignorance…my whatever…I truly mean no harm. And please know that just because I can be very difficult to deal with…He’s not. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. He is not represented by us in our argumentative, spiteful, arrogant, cocky, hypocritical ways. He is Grace. He is Love. He is Mercy.
I’m humbled…I truly am because the true I AM loves me in spite of myself, and wants me to see myself as beloved by Him, and worthy of His love by His own doing…and He wants the same for all of you as well.