The slap seen ‘round the world

In case you missed it, actor Will Smith charged the stage at the Oscars and slapped Chris Rock for a joke about his wife, then returned to his seat to hurl profanity. The media is reporting the drama, Facebook is full of opinion, and probably people you work with are talking about it.  Will Smith has taken some harsh criticism – “criminal,” “psychotic,” a kinder sampling of the words describing his actions.  Yes, I wonder what in the world he was thinking as he did what he did on live TV. 

I was tempted to join in the noisy condemnation but my own real humanity protests my self-righteousness.  We too often forget who we were, our own gaps and gaffes, and we allow ourselves to say things like: “Why doesn’t he get control of himself?” Or, “Do we have to deal with this again?”  We seem to love to point the finger of blame and forget that we can be healers who extend our arms in a restorative embrace.

So, now you’re thinking, “Jerry, don’t you think people should accept responsibility for their actions and change?” I sure do. However, I also know that restoration of those who have failed or fallen cannot begin without grace. That’s my story! With David, I have cried, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psalm 51:3, NIV) With Paul, I have prayed, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:24, NLT)

No one, not me, not you; is above the need for grace, for forgiveness.
That’s what we find in Christ Jesus. And, the love He extends to us should make us the most loving, grace-filled people in the world.

Love is the Big Story of the Bible. The Law of Moses with all the “thou shalts and shalt not’s” defines the wide gap that exists between Who He is and who we are. In spite of knowing better; in spite of the threat of punishment; we sin anyway. Some of the most miserable people in the world are those who know the religious law that makes their sense of guilt a daily ache and reminds them constantly of their alienation from God.

But, God … that’s the joyous message of the Gospel of Christ.  To a world of guilt, to people full of shame, Jesus came. His life and love is a scandalous thing, offered to the lowest, the worst. It cannot be earned, bought, or begged. It is a gift, offered in love, freely to those who believe! Paul exults, “Immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!” (Ephesians 2:4-5, The Message) 

In the 2nd half of my life, I came to love the inspired entire letter to the Ephesians. It is loaded with superlatives that celebrate the grace of God that makes ordinary people, sinners like me, into children of God.  I cannot read the first two chapters of that letter without crying tears of joy over the depths of God’s tenderness towards ME! (and you!)   There is no call for anyone to remain a slaves to Self, to be filled with self-loathing, or to need to try to divert their own sense of failure by pointing out the sins of others.  The Word states that God loves us – right where we are.

There is a tragedy that occurs too often when grace does its amazingly transformative work.  Those restored slip into a superiority, believing that they are better than ‘those idiots’ in their families, at work, that live next door, or who punch somebody at the Oscars! They forget that who they were, what they were capable of doing, the darkness that once caused them to stumble around in life. Gradually grace is replaced by a religious spirit; the beauty of the life of the Spirit replaced by the caricature of a ‘holy life’ based in regulations and fear of punishment.

The Word reminds Christians who lose sight of Jesus’ love and become ‘religious’ that their “rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.” (Colossians 2:22-23, NLT) Sin tiptoes through the back door and makes itself at home even as the person deepens self-deception, pretending to be someone only God’s grace can create!

I invite you, my friend, no matter who you are, no matter where you’ve been, to receive the love of Christ. Exult in His grace and confess this truth – “The One who knows me best, loves me most.” Revel in the scandal that God would love you – love me – and love people who mess up life so terribly!  IF you have been spared great scandal or failure, thank God.  No matter, however, because we are all, by nature, sinners in need of redemption.  So, put away judgment of yourself, of others. Let grace work in you and through you.

The word from the Word is a passage that brings me to tears.  I pray God will touch you anew this Monday morning with His love.

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:16-20, NLT)

(Video of this blog at this link)


Before The Throne Of God Above

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

My life is found in Jesus Christ
For I am His and He is mine

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I Am
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased with His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Saviour and my God
With Christ my Saviour and my God

I bow before the cross of Christ
And marvel at this love divine
God’s perfect Son was sacrificed
To make me righteous in God’s eyes
This river’s depths I cannot know
But I can glory in its flood
The Lord Most High has bowed down low
And poured on me His glorious love
And poured on me His glorious love

Charitie Lees Bancroft | Vikki Cook

© 1997 Sovereign Grace Worship (Admin. by Integrity Music)

CCLI License # 810055

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