As church this morning, we listened to a beautifully simple dialogue on grace; at least that is what it was for me. The passage was from John’s gospel, the first 11 or 12 verses of the 8th chapter. My bible titles this passage rather austerely; “An Adulteress Faces the Light of the World”. My takeaways from this are:
Jesus doesn’t ignore wrongdoing, but He is so connected at a heart level to us when we have failed and are buried in guilt. He approaches the situation from the heart, in relationship, not via a set of rules or religious principles.
Jesus doesn’t say if you are the senior or most respected church leader, you get to judge and condemn someone who has done the wrong thing.
Jesus doesn’t say if you are the most religious person, you get to look down on someone who has done the wrong thing.
Jesus simply says, “The one who has done no wrong among you, go first: Throw the stone.”
Jesus after every one has drifted away asks her, “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?” And when she answers “No one”, Jesus says two things. Firstly, “Neither do I.” Jesus came to mend a broken relationship with us which we were created to have with Him in the first place. Condemnation does not mend relationships, grace does, love does, caring at a heart level does… And Jesus caring about our heart, which does so poorly when laden with guilt or shame, also says, “Go on your way. From now on, don’t do the wrong thing.”
Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me
Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away, washed away
(Warning, awesome song but clips from The Passion of the Christ are a little graphic and may be disturbing to some)
With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live life under a continuous low lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. (Eighth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, first 2 verses)
But here is the thing. It doesn’t matter whether you are the self righteous judgmental type who thinks you have it all right and looks down on others because somehow their wrongdoing is worse than your own, or you know you have screwed up and are burdened with guilt and shame – or really anywhere on the spectrum in between. Jesus loves EVERYONE! It is not conditional, it is not based on anything we have done, or can do.
As the church, we are not always so great at this. Nick suggested this morning that grace is something everybody needs, and that the church should be a place they can find it. OK, maybe “not always so great” is being a bit kind. My gut reaction when Nick said this to be honest was that we suck at it. Thankfully however, Jesus is better than that. Jesus grace is not reserved for any particular person; no type of person, no color of person, no race.
And that is what makes my heart sing.
My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace