And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. John 1:16-17
I don’t want to one day stand before God and feel ashamed. That is something I am praying desperately about. I want to one day look into my Lord’s eyes and feel completely one with Him. But I know that in order for that to happen, I must lose my life somehow (Matthew 16:25).
One way in which I know I need to lose my life is to be honest with myself and with my fellow man. Brutally so, if necessary.
The world is increasingly becoming a dangerous place to live in and as a result there are many challenges facing us as children of God. We have choices to make, and the options are not in our favor.
There is the issue of crime, for example. In recent times, for instance, the U.S. has become one of the most violent peace-time nations on earth and the atrocities that are committed in this great country beat all sense out of anyone. Crimes of unspeakable horror are being carried out on a daily basis and people’s lives are being senselessly destroyed.
(In all modesty, let me say that such brutal, sustained violence as we hear of in the U.S. is simply not there in my country and such things appear all the more unbelievable to us.)
As a result of this violence there has been a raging debate about the death penalty and about the administration of justice in general. Many of these crimes committed in the U.S. are so horrific you wonder how the perpetrator could be allowed to live for even one second. (In Africa we have what we call ‘mob justice’. That means that before the cops arrive, the ‘death penalty’ is quickly administered to the guy by an angry mob, and the cops find case closed. In fact, in some cases the cops are known to deliberately delay their arrival so they can give the mob enough time to finish the administration of ‘justice’!
And if the villain is caught by the police themselves he will see hell long before he arrives in court. That is ‘justice’, Africa-style.)
But I am made to understand that in the U.S. the guy is handcuffed peacefully, taken to prison and fed like a king, and given all the creature comforts he needs, all of which is paid for by the victim’s family’s tax money. Then the case will drag on for eternity and even after a verdict of “Guilty” has been handed to the fellow, anything is likely to happen, including the all-too-often possibility of him coming back into society soon enough to sow more terror. That rankles, to say the least.
I don’t need to go too deep inside my heart to discover that I support the death penalty or any equally deterrent sentence, and this where my problem really is. To be brutally honest, with such cases I am at heart firmly for “A tooth for a tooth”. I can’t really say I hate these murderers, rapists, etc, but I know I feel angry enough to support at least something to be done to them.
If we were to vote on it, I probably might cast my vote against the death penalty, although in doing so I would simply be appeasing my conscience as a Christian. In my heart I would be screaming, “Hang them!”
I know that this is an attitude of law with me and I know I have carried it for a long time. It is not a reflection of grace, no matter which angle I look at it with. Grace has power beyond any sin.
But I also know that God has been dealing with my heart more and more, as I constantly get to hear of all the violence going on in the world today.
God did not scream, “Hang them!” even though they killed His Only Begotten Son. Ever since the death of His Son, God has been running after the perpetrators of His Son’s murder (that’s all of us, by the way), not to commit them to the electric chair, but to show them forgiveness, mercy and love. And we all know where God found some of us – hiding in the gutter and rebellious to the core! He did not flinch to wade into the foul-smelling mire we were in, pull us out, wash us clean, forgive us completely and, yes, “made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).What incredible grace!
The Bible says that we who have been shown such mercy by God are to be “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Mat. 5:48). There is a price involved in arriving at that perfection.
I have had to humble myself and see how wanting I am in the area of grace. I know that God has helped me in many areas in my life, and I need to do Him justice by admitting that. And yet, I know I am not through with being a man of the law yet. My ‘law problem’ does not stop with my ire at the murderers and rapists in far-away U.S. but it seeps through right to my doorstep, in my dealings with the people that I interact with daily.
Now that the Lord and I are on it, though, I know I will arrive somewhere. I am not pessimistic, I have faith. I also have a goal. My goal is to carry within me a heart of total forgiveness and total grace, the same heart that God Himself had for me. It is a tall order indeed, with the way things are in the world today. But again, if anything is not a challenge in our lives, it is not worth it.
The Lord wants us to become men of grace. Law was done with by the arrival of Jesus. Jesus did not bring law. In fact when He came the law was already there. And He came to abolish it because of its inability to deal with sin. He brought grace and truth instead. Where did Jesus bring these things? He brought them into our hearts.
There are many men and women who wouldn’t be where they are today if God’s grace was not operational today. Brutal, violent men in our generation have experienced the indescribable generosity of God, and changed.
The question each one needs to ask themselves is: Where are we in all this? What is our role in the administration, not of ‘justice’, but of grace in the world today?
I would not in any way underestimate the pain and destruction that brutal people inflict on others. But again, it is all the more reason that we need to carry the heart of grace.
Grace is to be found only at the cross. As we take up our cross and follow Christ, we find in us the indescribable grace needed in a world such as ours.
“And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.”