One of the reasons Jason and I started our book discussions now more than three years ago, is because we wanted to have a way to challenge each other and share things that we were each learning that could help each other to grow. And never has that happened more than during this book discussion on Andy Stanley’s book, “The Grace of God.”
A couple of weeks ago, one of our friends in the discussion—Dusty—said something that reached out and touched me like a two by four between the eyes.
“We have names and categories of people we feel do not deserve God’s Agenda of grace and salvation. We want to see them condemned. Into that darkness, God steps in with His arms outstretched in love with healing and forgiveness for all who accept it.” (Dusty Rayburn at www.devotedconversations.com)
I think of myself as a forgiving person. There are certain people I’ve spent years trying to fully forgive. Namely, my abusers. I think I’m “over it.” And I think I’ve forgiven them. But with Dusty’s three sentences, the realization rushed in on me that one of the reasons I’ve been able to put my anger past me is because I’m picturing God raining lightning bolts down on my abusers’ heads. God is going to give them powerful, angry, vengeful justice one day, right? So, I can let it go now. But in the time it took to read those three sentences, I had a realization that God isn’t just a God of justice, He’s also a God of mercy and grace. And so, if my abusers cry out to Him for forgiveness, He will forgive them. And the next time I face them, I may be spending eternity in Heaven with them.
Is that really fair? These guys abused me. They mistreated a child of God.
Andy Stanley talks this week about the criminal on the cross next to Jesus, who, for years, had lived a horrendous, brutal life (we assume; I mean, he was being crucified, after all). But in the last breaths of his life, he asked Jesus simply to remember him in his Kingdom. And Jesus responded, “My friend, you are coming with me.” (my paraphrase)
If Jesus can forgive this man on the cross…
If Jesus can forgive me for things so bad I can’t even bring myself to share them with you…
Then, Jesus can forgive my abusers if they call out.
And that means I have to be prepared for that. I have to be prepared to accept God’s mercy and grace to others, as well as to myself.
And thankfully, God is big enough to help me to do that which I cannot do by myself.
In Andy Stanley’s words:
“Christ’s death and resurrection signaled to the world that the kingdom of God is not reserved for good people. It is reserved for forgiven people. Good forgiven people. Pretty good forgiven people. Not-so-good forgiven people. And people like the criminal on the cross who didn’t have any good to bargain with.” (Stanley, “The Grace of God.”)
This post is part of a weekly discussion that my friend, Jason Stasyszen and I are co-facilitating about Andy Stanley’s book, “The Grace of God.” You don’t have to read the book to stay and chat! If you’ve written a response to this week’s chapter, please link up at the widget below!