23 Jan 2014 by Eugene Tan –
We read a, b, c, d…God reads Z, Y, X, W…
God looks at the world differently! His ways are diametrically opposed to our ways! We look for people to praise us, He look for those who needed praise; instead of VIP’s who had fame and fortune who can favor us, He look for those who are down and out. We look for those who are beautiful, who can sing, dance, act, excel in sports, drive fast cars; He look for those who had none of the above. This is how God reaches out to us! This is Jesus, who reminded us again and again, that He came for the sinners and not the righteous, for the sick and not the healthy, for the weak and not the strong! He came for those who know they cannot help themselves.
I have heard wonderful testimonies where unbelievers drop by churches in moments of crisis and experience a peace that surpasses all understanding…which eventually lead them to Christ. I have also heard damaging testimonies where unbelievers facing crisis refuse to have anything to do with churches because they are convinced going to a church will only make them feel worse. “What, go to church?” exclaimed a young lady! “As if getting pregnant and abandoned by boyfriend is not bad enough, I don’t need further condemnation.”
What impacted me about this testimony is that women with similar problems run towards Jesus and not away from Him. He endears Himself to the weak, the disenfranchised. The worse a sinner feels about himself/herself the more they see Jesus as a way out. And, He is ever ready to help them resolve their problems. Have we as a church lost that appeal?
Oliver Stone did a film called “Persona Non Grata” a person without grace; these are people who are not welcome in any country, for example, terrorists and felons. Not only governments, society too had their list of outcasts. I will spare you the details but back in Jesus’ days, lepers and prostitutes belong to that category. I was just wondering, in our modern church, do we have a list? Do we have a list of folks who fall from grace who are a disgrace? I am persuaded, most of the problems we encounter in the body of Christ these days and those in times past are due to the fact that we do not know how to dispense unconditional grace and, we do not know how to receive unconditional grace!
It is hard not to be influenced either way; every which way we turn, there is ungrace. India expelled US diplomat in retaliation; possible war between China and Japan, screamed the headlines. Anger. Hate. Retaliation. Daily we are bombarded by such news from the Middle East, Russia, Tibet, Thailand, Africa…couple that with the subliminal messages of ungrace churned out by TV, Video Games and Movies made in Hollywood, Bollywood and Hong Kong…the popular American ABC prime time television series Revenge is into its third season and counting. The underlying theme for the majority of these movies and games is vengeance, a tit for tat, an eye for eye stuff, and life is following Art.
Jesus dispelled that notion by rebuking the disciple who lopped off the ear of the advancing soldier and by restoring back the ear. In God’s economy, violence begets violence. Amnon raped Tamar his half sister and Absolam killed Amnon his half brother. Absolam was himself killed by Joab. Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner because Abner had killed their brother Asahel. Subsequently, Joab was killed by Benaiah and the list goes on. Vengeance is basically self-help; instead of turning to God, we look to ourselves to resolve our own problems. And hence, the cycle of violence continues in the world today.
God cannot help us if we are so full of ourselves. The hand that is full cannot receive. Remember the monkey with its hands caught in a cookie jar because they are full? A society so unforgiving, so intolerant..so keen and so full of laws to incarcerate, demonize and consequently dehumanize every law breaker (minor or major, mortal or venial) has no more room left in their system to seek God for answers. Likewise, those penalized (having not received grace and there are many) will not know how to show grace.
The world’s major religions teach us to be good in order to receive God’s blessings, Judaism included. Deuteronomy 28 is a good example, do good and get blessed; do bad and get cursed. There is only one thing the world cannot do, it cannot offer grace. Saddam Hussein lured his son-in-law back from exile and had him executed, for betrayal. In some other parts of the world, where certain tradition still holds strong, children are killed if they’re disobedient or willful.
The late Nelson Mandela broke the cycle of unforgiveness by forgiving his jailers after spending 26 years incarcerated. King David showed grace to Mephibosheth the grandson of Saul. At the cross the Son of God cried, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing” Grace is radical, grace is madness. It is humanly impossible to forgive those who want you dead.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Which is to say, in our totally depraved condition, we cannot help ourselves but nonetheless God’s irresistible grace actively seeks to help us. As portrayed in the parable of the prodigal son, the lost coin and the lost sheep. He reaches out to the prostitute, the unscrupulous business man, the enemy soldier, the adulterer, the leper, the sick – all who cannot help themselves, He helped!
The Chinese Lunar New Year 2014 is around the corner. I know someone who keeps track of the “ang pows” his children received (the amount) the previous year, so that he can dish out same-same reciprocally, you know, the “kia su” afraid to lose mindset. The world knows nothing about grace. Grace gives more! Everything, in fact. The receiver gives nothing. Grace is not what we had done for God but what God had done for us. It’s unmerited favor.
The Bible declares, give and it will be given unto you. There is no need to “spiritualize” its meaning; if we don’t have we can’t give. And we can’t give, if we had not received. Only when we have received grace can we give grace. Unto whom much is forgiven, unto whom will forgive much. If we don’t feel forgiven, we cannot forgive. God cannot help those who are self-sufficient, even the Almighty cannot forgive those who chose not to be forgiven.
The humanist declares, God helps those who help themselves. I mean, if we can help ourselves, why do we need God? Nah, I am more incline to believe “God Helps Those Who Knows They Cannot Help Themselves”. Can’t put it any better than the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, it is spot on. Romans 4:4-5 caps it! “Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness” That is Grace and it is Radical!
References for pictures