Max Lucado talks about grace in an essay entitle “Behind the Shower Curtain”, found in the book When God Whispers Your Name. He has a discussion with a friend about grace. The friend didn’t like the fact that Max was pretty open about who he spent time with. According to Max, “If God calls a person His child, shouldn’t I call him my brother?” And, “If God accepts others with their errors and misinterpretations, shouldn’t we?” The friend’s response was that Max was carrying things a bit too far, that fences are necessary, that scripture is clear about such matters. He then admonished Max to “be careful to whom you give grace.” Max said, “I don’t give it. I only spotlight where God already has.” He then makes a statement that has stuck with me over the years, because I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes right down to it:
“I”ve never been surprised by God’s judgment, but I’m still stunned by His grace.”
There are stories all through the Bible about God’s judgment. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Drowning the Egyptians in the Red Sea. When bad things happen to bad people, we (I) say “They deserved it.” But when we (I) see God’s grace showered down to someone who, in our (my) estimation doesn’t deserve it, we (I) get all self-righteous about it. Who are we to say who can and can not receive God’s grace? Who am I to say??
“I’m not for watering down the truth or compromising the gospel. But if a fellow with a pure heart calls God ‘father’, can’t I call that same man ‘brother’? If God doesn’t make doctrinal perfection a requirement for family membership, should I? And if we never agree, can’t we agree to disagree? I God can tolerate my mistakes, can’t I overlook the mistakes of others? If God allows me, with my foibles and failures, to call him ‘Father’, shouldn’t I extend the same grace to others? One thing’s for sure: when we get to heaven, we’ll be surprised by some of the folks we see. And some of them will be surprised when they see us.”
There’s a scene in the movie The Mission when a man who used to capture South American natives and sell them into slavery in Europe goes back to those same natives to live in a monastery or something as punishment for his crimes. The monastery is located at the top of a very high waterfall. The priests tell the criminal not to bring any possessions with him, but he insists on piling up everything he owns and lugging it up the waterfall. More than once, he loses his balance and nearly plunges to his death because of the heavy load he’s carrying on his back. He finally makes it to the top and collapses. He looks up to see a native coming toward him with a very large machete, and he knows that this man has come for revenge. The native stands over him with the knife and he knows he’s going to die. Then the native reaches down and cuts away the rope holding the bundle of possessions and lets it fall back down to the bottom of the waterfall. The native then embraces the man who was responsible for killing or selling members of his own tribe.
At that moment, the criminal experienced grace. And at that moment, he entered heaven. Still alive and kicking.
Heaven and hell both exist, and you don’t have to die to enter either one. Most of us choose heaven or hell, not really knowing that’s what we’re choosing.
Back to the prompt: I’m with Max. I’ll be surprised at some of the people I see there. And some of them will undoubtedly be surprised to see me. There will be no fences except for those I will be jumping on horseback.