Friday, July 6, 2007

Mysteries of Grace

One of the great mysteries of grace is found in the strange attraction Jesus had for the unattractive. Jesus had this desire for the undesirable and a strange love for the unlovely! Of course we realize Jesus is simply reflecting Abba’s love…Jesus loves the ones the Father loves!

One “…time the disciples came to Jesus saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’” Jesus steps up and pierces our thick-skinned hearts and calls “a child, had him stand among them, and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven! Whoever then humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4, The NET Bible).

Cutting right through our prejudices He sets this child on His knee…this child with no self-consciousness and therefore incapable of any charades, shams, or pretenses. Brennan Manning (in The Ragamuffin Gospel, a must read for all!!) tells of little three year old John Dyer. Brennan heard the knocking on the door, opens the door and there is little John flanked by both parents. Brennan said, “Well, Hello John, it is good to see you…” And to use a phrase my Dad often used, with his face ‘set like a flint,’ John looked neither left nor right but straight at Brennan with fierce determination and boldly demanded, “Where’s the cookies?”

God’s Grace belongs to those with no self-consciousness…those who are not trying to look good or impress themselves or anyone else. God’s Grace falls on those who are not worried about how their actions will be interpreted or wondering if they will get any ‘kudos’ for ‘good behavior.’ No, God’s Grace belongs to the child. “Who is the greatest?” is still yammering for an answer here in 2007 and with swift barbed jabs of love, Jesus incisively penetrates through our narcissism (“oh I wonder if I am good enough?”), our boasting (“do you know how many came forward and were baptized last week?), and our fretting (“I guess I am just fundamentally flawed and nothing will ever change!”). You see a child does not have to struggle to get herself into a good position to have a Grace Relationship with God, she does not have to paint a pretty face for herself, nor possess any great intellectual understanding. All she has to do is accept the cookies! Oh the Grace of God!!

I think when Jesus encourages us to become as little children He is asking us to forget the past and realize it is only NOW that I am with God. You see, it matters not what good or ill I have in my past, it is irrelevant to the MAX, or as my son says it is “uber irrelevant!” It only NOW that I am with God…not yesterday (“oh for the good ole days?!?) nor tomorrow (“oh I had better be sure this is taken care of) but only today!!

Living in the now, living life to it’s fullest, being fully human and fully alive; this is what God’s Grace offers. One day a monk was running away from a hungry tiger and saw a rope dangling over a cliff. He quickly grabbed the rope and let himself down. “Whew,” he thought, “that was close.” 500 feet below he saw jagged rocks and glancing up he saw the saber-toothed tiger. About that time two mice began nibbling on the rope and the monk thought, “Oh my goodness, what am I to do?” Then he looked at the rock wall in front of him and saw the reddest and biggest strawberry ever. He reached out, took it, and promptly ate it. He said, “That was the best strawberry ever!”

I would have never seen the strawberry! I would have been so preoccupied with my future (the rocks below) or worried about my past (the tiger above) that I would have missed the “here and now” with God today! Children do not focus on the tigers of the past nor worry about the rocks of tomorrow. Oh to be as Paul who says “I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead…” (Philippians 3:13 The NET Bible).

John Mark

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