Friday, May 30, 2014

Grace and a Comma

In Luke 22, Jesus is finishing up dinner with his disciples. He is getting ready to be arrested, to be led away, to be beaten, to go to the cross. Prophecies are coming true and chaos will shortly break out among disciples. At this point they have sworn to serve until death. 
In the middle of all this, Jesus pulls Simon aside because he knows that Simon will soon betray him. He says to him in Luke 22:31-32:
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”

And then, he drops the 9 words that are so important and powerful. 
9 words that I want each of us to grasp and turn to, whenever we fail and mess up and feel hopelessly undeserving of hope.
Jesus tells Simon:
And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Do you see what Jesus is saying in that first half of the sentence,
And when you have turned back?”
He’s saying:
You are going to fail.
You are going to fall.
You are going to lose it.
You are going to make commitments and break them.
You are not going to always be the husband/wife, mother/father your family needs.
You are going to sin.
But, but, but, you will turn back. 

You will come back. 
You will know redemption. 
You will know return. 
You will know a God that not only allows the “comeback” but actually celebrates it.

When I read that phrase “And when you have turned back,” I catch a loud, wild, ridiculous picture of what grace really looks like.

But, if you go too fast, you’ll miss the comma.
You’ll miss the gap that sits quietly before the next thought.
You’ll miss it because it's so easy to misread the second half of that sentence.

Here’s what it says:
And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
But here’s how we sometimes read it:
“And when you have turned back,
 repent for a long time
 and stay a long way from me
 until you are clean enough to return to my presence.”“And when you have turned back,
 please stay far away from any ministry opportunities.
 You are too broken to help other people.
 How can you minister to others when your own life is so messed up?“And when you have turned back, here are a bunch of things you need to do in order to earn back my good favor.”

But Christ doesn’t do that!
He drops a comma like a grenade.
He gives us the gift of the comma, and then, asks us to strengthen our brothers.
Not beat ourselves up with emotional whips.
Or lie in a hole of shame.
Or stay to the shadows of church, afraid to be seen.
He wants you.
In his arms.
By his side.
Surrendered and free in his presence.
Not because you deserve it or have earned it or are perfect.
But because of the cross
Because of the resurrection
That’s it.

We all get the grace of a comma.

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