they don’t see

i was speaking to a gentleman one time about someone who had committed a pretty despicable crime. he told me that he hoped they put the man under the jail and filled it with concrete. i remember the anger that came to the surface when he spoke of this incident and how much it affected me. it was such a visceral response that i was almost uncomfortable…but i understood how he felt. truth be told, we all feel like that about certain things. we want to see people punished for their actions and held accountable for their deeds. some of us may even like it when we see someone pulled over by a police officer…thinking to ourselves, “they’re getting what they deserve!” but when it comes to us being pulled over or us being the ones in the wrong, we never want justice. i’ve never heard of someone flying through an intersection at 30 miles over the speed limit seeking out a police officer to dole out their punishment…because we only want justice when it is directed at someone else…we always want mercy for ourselves…

i guess the thing that shocks me the most is the amount of Christians in the world that are so vindictive and angry…in the name of a faith that is based so completely on grace and mercy, we never want to extend grace and mercy…we want to extend justice…for others…for “them”…especially if they have wronged us in some way…all the while, knowing that Jesus said to forgive 70×7 (not actually speaking of the numerical value, but of the fact that we are to forgive infinitely)…He also said that when someone strikes you to turn the other cheek and let them strike that one also (when someone utterly disrespects you, don’t back down in your love and don’t respond in the same way).

so why do we have such a hard time with this? perhaps it’s because we don’t really see…we don’t see what He did/is doing/is going to do…we don’t see that He wasn’t teaching people how to be theologically accurate and have all their rules ironed out…He was teaching them to be human and modeling it perfectly. He was showing them that there is a better way than this cycle of anger, rage, vengeance, judgmentalism… He was trying to get them to see the world as He did…He’s trying to get us to see the world as He does…He’s guiding us down the path of grace that is paved with mercy and opening our eyes to the better Way.

consider the cross… as Jesus hangs from the cross, suspended between heaven and hell…experiencing injustice so that the unjust can escape justice…He pours out mercy upon the merciless…”Father, forgive them…they don’t know what they’re doing.” there are few passages that have caused my mind to race as much as this one has…what are its implications? what are its applications? what was really going on between the Father and the Son during that moment?

God has always been there/here…always known all things…always been all powerful…there’s nothing outside of His scope of understanding or reasoning, and there is nothing that can surprise Him or occur to Him…He cannot evolve or devolve…so i’m blown away by the fact that He became a human, had a human experience…dare we say a new experience (my mind explodes at that thought). i’ve heard scholars say that when Jesus went back to the Father’s side (after the ascension), He took all of His human experience with Him…there seems to be something very interesting in that implication that our open-theism friends would love…could it be that God gained insight through experience that He once only had academic knowledge about? i guess what i mean is that God had knowledge (all knowledge) of what it meant to be human, but had not experienced it and therefore His knowledge of being human would be similar to our knowledge of a safari after reading about it…we can know about a safari through the available knowledge but that never is the same as the experience of it…

so here’s Jesus, Who is God, telling His Father, Who is God, the same God, something that He had experienced…i believe it was not new knowledge to Him…but was possibly a new experience for Him… and from the inside of the human situation, He cries out in compassion for our brokenness for mercy and grace… and He tells God that we don’t know…we don’t see…we don’t get it. at the risk of sounding like i would take human responsibility for sin away (which i would not do), He was almost making a case for the fact that we can’t help ourselves from making bad choices…and maybe He’s saying it because He knows that we really don’t see what it is we’re doing…we don’t see what it is He is working to accomplish, and the reason that we don’t see is the same reason He died…our sin…our brokenness…our fallenness…

but it doesn’t stop there…the tomb is empty…and His body has never been recovered, because He rose to new life as the “firstborn among many.” He has started a new family. He has begun a new race, and He wants the new race to act human. He wants us to extend grace and mercy and stop chomping at the bit to exact justice…we seem to think we can change the world with the swift, harsh swings of the hammer of justice, and the more we swing, the more the cycle repeats. but when we act in grace and extend mercy, it throws the trend off kilter…and sin doesn’t know how to respond…and the sleeping/dead soul of the human gets a quick start…because this is different…this is not the same food it always gets fed…this is almost something it can’t handle…and it takes time in order for us to be able to digest it…centuries…millennia…but as we do…we change…and as we begin to crave that kind of sustenance more…a true change…lasting change…can take place…the kind of change that the hammer of justice can never bring about…the change that only the empty tomb can effect.

to be clear, i’m not saying that we should allow things to go unaccounted for…or that justice should never be exercised…i’m really not trying to approach that as much as i’m trying to say that when we are looking at those around us let us remember that in many cases, “they don’t know what they’re doing.” let us have some compassion for one another and remember that they don’t see…and let us remember that at one time…neither did we…

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6 comments on “they don’t see

  1. Sandra Dillingham says:

    I am so blown away by the Grace God has shown to me alone. I don’t deserve it, yet he continues to give it to me. I am working hard to want the same grace for others that I want for myself and extend mercy to them as well. Thank you Steve for putting it into such an understandable language.

  2. Bob Moon says:

    Steve, once again you have articulated the core of the Gospel masterfully. It is the glorious mercy and grace of the Gospel that not only fuels our worship, but molds our living. Imagine if the heart of all of our relationships overflows with Gospel-fueled mercy and grace. Marriages would rarely fail. Employee-employer, brother-sister, neighbor-neighbor, Christian-Christian, and all other relationships would more fully reflect the very relationship that Christ reflected to all those sinners in need of wrath and judgement that He met while he physically walked on earth. If sinless Christ can selflessly suffer, hang on a cross, and die…for all those who should have received God’s full wrath, justice and punishment…why do I not pursue a Christlike response to all those around me?
    Oh, the glory of the Gospel! Thank you GOD for not giving me what I deserve!!!
    Thank you Steve, for reminding me of this once again!

  3. Jay DePoy says:

    Bob is right, Steve. I love the illustration of the Safari experience, head knowledge vs. experiential knowledge… You’re a great writer, and a prolific thinker. Keep going!

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