I saw a blog post the other day on Facebook. It was written by a new friend with a kindred heart. The picture accompanying it is familiar.
It’s shown up in my stream and in posts and news articles all week. My eyes want to move away from it.
I carry these things clumsily, my heart breaks so easily and some days all I have on my lips are the Psalms to ask why God? Sometimes I can’t bring words out from the pain I see, only whispered prayers, “Jesus, we need you.”
Faith is my assurance that He knows even when I don’t. I live with the rhythm of questions, the prayers of a million needs and aches and the swirl of tragedy that festers in a world so broken. There is a tension in hope and grief. Faith and lament.
But sometimes in the midst of those prayers, I feel a glimpse of Kingdom glory and the kind of love that makes no sense and the kind of brave that inhabits the hearts of men when God is in us and I feel a tenacious grip of hope wrestling it’s way into the brokenness and what comes out is praise.
Can you imagine this? Praise.
In the face of the absurd and horrific and terrifying. Because after lament, I am always found again in Him. All that belong to Him will never be lost. I know this as surely as I know anything.
They are herded, these brothers in orange jumpsuits and chains, kneeling on the brink of eternity and behind them their captors. The stretch of the ocean crashes as a backdrop for what could only be described as evil. There is evil, you know. A plague of it infecting with death and rape and horrors too hard to fathom done at the hands of God’s creation.
I wish it were as simple as us and them but the fault line of sin traverses every human heart, it’s born into our bloodlines and pumps through our veins. We must be transfused with Holy blood to know anything but death.
And I know Jesus suffered and died too, a man wrapped in eternity, God come down to bleed into the wounds we inflict on ourselves.
I see the comments that say not this. This is too much to forgive, too far gone, too evil. This is too hard a task for God. Or that forgiveness could be had but there is a crossing point and surely they have severed their consciences just as severely as they severed these men, they don’t know truth, evil has mastered them.
We must wish for blood and more death. The vengeance that never belonged to us but we wrest it from God’s hands, bloodthirsty and hopeful for our own narrative of justice.
Could we believe in a grace so powerful as to imagine a table set with murderer and martyr together?
Only in Jesus would we ever dream of this. In the world it makes no sense. In the world, we take care of our own. In the world, we fight for what’s ours. In the world we take sides and draw swords and sever souls.
But the Kingdom is upon us. In the Kingdom, we love our enemies, we pray for those who persecute us for our righteousness, we build bridges, we forgive, we turn swords into plough shares and harvest the souls Jesus brings in His wake.
In the Kingdom we are people of invitation and open doors. We are people of open hearts and willing hands. We are people prepared to be slain for the glory set before us. In the Kingdom we are more than conquerors, we are peacemakers, we are fools. We are brothers and sisters, enemies made friends.
This is the fiercest love I know. That while we were sinners, Christ died for us.
We are the bridal church, we are called beautiful, we are called loved, we are being called home. But sometimes the church looks wretched and wicked too.
I read through the comments in my newsfeed and twitter and I ached for the way we skew the gospel.
I believe in the justice and mercy of an infinitely wise God. I believe sin will be accounted for on the cross or in the hearts of the wicked who would not find solace in grace but would choose wrath. And I cannot know the hearts of men. I cannot know the planted seeds that take hold and root the gospel in the lives of His people. But I believe there are none too far gone.
Even this, with God, is possible.
Awhile back I wrote of an encounter I had with a boy. A boy who put his hands on me and trapped me and made me carry my old wounds like the hunted. And I got away that night but I’ve lived with those kinds of scars, the ones that told me I was dirty, the smell of whore and the cost of grace too high for me.
And when I came to know Christ I felt a relief that God’s justice would prevail and those who had hurt me would pay. I was His child now. I belong to Him.
But it wasn’t until years later, after the internet and the ability to pop a name in google and hit search that I realized I might be sitting at that table with my abuser. That grace just might be wide enough for him too. That maybe he had come to know Christ too and he might be my brother in eternity.
I festered with anguish that God would allow it. I felt tormented and hoped his conversion was false. I wanted him to suffer and pay. It’s only fair.
And I felt a stirring in my soul that can only can be described as peace and forgiveness and maybe even the love of God. I can’t explain it much better than that and I don’t want to negate the wrongness of things done to me. I don’t want to negate the pain or the damage or the sin of these evils.
But I cannot believe in a grace so small and pitiful that it cannot transform the most wretched, the most lost, the most evil. How can I believe in a Jesus so small, that the cost of His blood must be mixed with a magic elixir of our own goodness to make it take effect?
All I know is I am His. I am called. I am free.
I have been the prodigal, may I never again take the position of the older brother. Give me the heart of the father, I pray.
How can we love the gospel and believe in it’s power if we honestly think anything we do or don’t do, whether goodness or sin, determines the kind of grace that reconciles us to God? Only Jesus, only ever Jesus’ blood and death and resurrection will ever amount to any accounting for my everlasting soul. It’s the most preposterous kind of grace, the kind we cannot earn or negate.
If we believe ourselves too repented and too godly to sit at the table with sinners of the worst kind, we somehow believe ourselves too good, too deserving, too lovely to know the wretchedness of our own sin. The sin that forfeited life and chose death at every turn but for the grace of God.
If human goodness is the pinnacle, then wild and costly grace is a scam. The biggest one of our times.
But if scandalous grace is the truth, it is the hope in the darkness, the salve for the wounded, the answer to all the questions, and the love song of our Savior.
Even as we cry out on behalf of those who were considered worthy to suffer like their Savior, and for those He is ransoming now, and for those we know as enemies but love like brothers, the gospel lives. I know it well.