Archives For grace

Truth & Consequences

Tim Jackson —  December 5, 2011 — 11 Comments

“But I told the truth!” Through her sobs it was clear that she understood how wrong she was in what she’d done. She’d broken the trust of her husband yet again with another affair. This one she’d managed to keep hidden for the past 5 years.

“I’ll never do it again!” she promised, pleading with him to not follow through with the separation. “I told the truth! Why won’t you believe me?”

In spite of her pleading, her husband had had enough of her lies. She had violated his trust one too many times and this time she lost him for good.

Unfortunately, this scenario is played out in numerous venues and relationships far too often. People who have done something wrong, finally get caught, “tell the truth” after a litany of lies and then are shocked that there are still consequences for their choices.

Some Christians will often respond with indignation, “Why won’t he just forgive her? He needs to show her grace! Jesus came to demonstrate truth and grace (John 1:14) and so should he.”

Somehow this distorted idea has crept into our present value system. What idea? That once I confess to the truth of what I’ve done, that all painful consequences should magically melt away like the dew in the morning sunlight because I “fessed up.” The rationale goes something like this:  “After all, we are to be gracious and forgiving of one another as Christians.” Sounds good. Right?

Sorry. While that may sound biblical, it’s not. A biblical understanding of Truth and Grace is that grace doesn’t exempt us from consequences for foolish choices. Grace means we don’t throw someone away and brand them as worthless.

Forgiveness can be offered to us when we finally confesses to what we’ve done, but what we must also accept is that we may still lose our job, our marriage, our home, our children, our reputation and our friends because of our choices.

Telling the truth doesn’t exempt us from the painful consequences of the truth being known. It’s not Truth or Consequences but Truth And Consequences.

Places To Belong

Jeff Olson —  October 6, 2011 — 1 Comment

In his book, Befriending the Stranger, Jean Vanier (founder of L’Arche) shared this gripping exchange he once had with a man who was in prison:

“I remember my visit to a top security prison in Kingston, Ontario. I told the prisoners about the men and women we have welcomed in l’Arche–their pain, their sense of failure and rejection, their depression, sometimes their self-mutilation…I knew that I was in fact telling them their own story, the story of their lives, their experience of rejection, grief, insecurity, and failure.”

“At the end of my talk one of the inmates got up and screamed at me: ‘You! You’ve had an easy life! You do not understand what we are living! When I was four years old, I saw my mother raped right in front of me! When I was seven, I was sold by my father for sex. When I was thirteen the police came to get me. If anyone else comes into this prison to talk about love I will kick his bloody head in!'”

Jean Vanier continued, “I listened to him but did not know what to say or do. It was as if he had me against the wall. I prayed and then I said: ‘It’s true what you say. I do not know what you have lived. But what I do know is that everything you have just told me is important. People outside the prison often judge you without knowing your pain…'”

“When the question time was over I went up to the man and I shook his hand. I asked him his name…I was inspired to ask him whether he was married and when he said ‘Yes’ I asked him to tell me about his wife. This man who had been so violent, who had seemed to have such hatred in him, broke down in tears. He told me about his wife, who was in Montreal in a wheelchair. He had not seen her for two years! I was in front of a wounded, vulnerable little child, weeping, crying out for love and tenderness.”

Vanier went on to add, “In the midst of all the violence and corruption of the world, God invites us today to create new places of belonging, places of sharing, of peace and kindness, places where no-one needs to defend himself or herself; places where each one is loved and accepted with one’s own fragility, abilities and disabilities.”

I don’t know  of a more powerful way to show the heart of Jesus than to give hurting and lost people from all walks of life a place to belong.  A place where issues are addressed, but only once love and non-condemning friendships are established (Lk. 19:1-9; John 8:1-11). A place where they are not judged and singled-out, but rather befriended and eventually encouraged to pursue a relationship with Jesus, and through His grace become all He intends for them to be.

BTW…L’Arche (a network of communities Jean Vanier established for those with intellectual disabilities ) is the the French word for Noah’s Ark.

 

 

Freedom on the Inside

Jeff Olson —  September 15, 2011 — 2 Comments

I recently learned of a new study bible titled Freedom on the Inside. It’s been developed in conjunction with Prison Fellowship, a Christ-based ministry that reaches out to prisoners and their families.

I love the title. Anything that reminds me of freedom is a winner in my book. Even more, it’s simple, yet speaks of a deep powerful force that can only come through God’s grace (Romans 6:14).

Most of us will never find ourselves doing time behind bars, but all of us are incarcerated by something–a wound, some habit, legalism, debt, shame, fear…something that ties us up in knots. And true freedom from whatever holds us captive begins when our hearts encounter grace.

Freedom inside our hearts sets us on a path to live more freely on the outside. Or as the Psalmist put it,

“I run in the path of your commands because you have set my heart free!” (Psalm 119:11). 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying Grounded

Jeff Olson —  June 9, 2011 — Leave a comment

Last week I was reading through a monthly newsletter from John Eldredge, founder of Ransomed Heart Ministries. Eldredge, who has recently written a book about Jesus, said that one of things that  struck him the most going through the life of Christ again was how grounded of a person Jesus was.

Eldredge wrote that Jesus’ “ability to navigate praise, then hatred, false flattery, then adoring crowds, vicious slander and then people who simply don’t care — all with a grace and a sense of self that was simply stunning. Here was one grounded man.”

Yes indeed…Jesus was one centered dude.

Eldredge’s observations about Christ made me ask myself, “What am I grounded in?” Perhaps a better question to ask is “Who am I grounded in?” & “How am I staying grounded?”

In order to stay grounded, Eldredge suggested, “Cut the insane busyness. Do not live for tweets, texts, Facebook or email. Unplug the TV. Read Christian writers…Practice solitude and silence (five minutes a day will rescue you)…Get back in the Scriptures.”

Sounds likes some good ways to become and stay grounded.

No matter what we are going through, intentionally abiding in Christ and staying centered in His truth and grace is the best place to be. It may not change our circumstances, but it will help us be who we truly are in Him.

Antiques

Allison Stevens —  October 26, 2009 — 1 Comment

rolltopdeskI have a friend who loves antiques. Her home is filled with dishes, furniture, and trinkets from great grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, and uncles. She buys items from long ago that represent a feeling, an historical period, or a family member, and then beautifully displays them throughout her home.

As we were shopping one day, I’m sure she found her antique soul-mate. We were admiring an old roll-top desk and the store owner came over and pointed out the crayon marks and nicks on the side of the desk. I was sure my friend was going to say no thank-you to the desk because of these things, but instead, she and the store owner’s eyes lit up and they were smiling about how these imperfections were exciting because they told a story.

Apparently, there was a woman in earlier that day that wanted the desk, but didn’t like the marks and nicks. She wanted it changed, painted over, covered up, refurbished. She wanted it perfect.

But the store owner explained that it was those imperfections that made the desk special and unique. The desk had a story to tell:  Who wrote on that desk? When did they do it and why? Did they get into trouble?

She admitted that even if the woman had offered her the money she would not have wanted to sell it to her because she just didn’t “get it”, nor would she appreciate the distinctiveness of the piece.  

I think the store owner must be kind of like God. I think God looks at us with eyes lit up with love, and admires all the nicks and marks. He says, “Yes, I know you’re a little banged up over there, and look at those scratches over here. But that’s where you learned about my forgiveness right there.  Oh, and over on this side, you experienced humility in a way that you won’t forget. There’s the mark of faith over there. Yes, all these imperfections are perfect.”

Our imperfections make us who we are. If we let God do His thing in us (making us more like Jesus), which is a painful process, God will make us beautiful, special, significant. Then, we’ll have a story to tell.