Love is…Grace

homeless-man

The other day I drove by another homeless man standing near the highway. I barely paused to see if I had one of those prepared bags I made with the family to disperse things they “need” (like snacks and soap), instead of things they “want” (money for all sorts of trouble they’d get into). When I didn’t have one, I kept on driving.

Sometimes when I’m with friends in public and we’re talking about the Lord, I lower my voice so people around don’t hear me. I tell myself I’m being polite. I’m actually hiding my faith.

When I’m approached by emotionally needy people, I “read” them, and the room, before responding. If I’m inclined to help or tell them about the Lord, I often squelch it if those around me might disapprove or judge me for it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought that a certain family I run into needs to shower more. I wonder if they have money trouble, or if it’s a matter of choice. Once I prayed for them…out of guilt because I heard myself judging them audibly and was ashamed.

I type this with my heart pounding, but not from embarrassment of my confession, as you might expect. I’m past embarrassment, and I am aware that most people do a lot of this stuff, whether or not they admit it. No, my heart is racing from the disappointment of realizing that I am such a hypocrite.

Do you know, that one time my professional role model claimed that I am the “nicest person” he’d ever met? At the time I thought I didn’t tell people about it because I was “so humble”. But in reality, saying it out loud would have blasted my ear drums with an audible lie. I might be nice compared to some of the lost in this world, but I’m truly nothing compared to the One I should be compared to. The righteous One. The holy One. The One who would never have supported my letting a person think that about me. You know who I’m talking about, right? The One who did not come into the world to judge it but to SAVE it?!?! (John 3:17).

Sweet Jesus, let us see it! Let us understand our hypocrisy! Let us know your glory so we recognize our sin!

It’s not just me. I’m not the only one who drove by that homeless man. I’m not the only believer who lives in this world and, let’s face it, lives of this world, while trying to bring Jesus along with us. Instead of setting the example of being drastically different, the way He was, instead of daring to stick out like a sore thumb with our radical love, we redefine His call, our faith, our God, to fit into this world. Our churches are run by business models instead of the Holy Spirit. Decisions are made by pursuing common sense instead of faithful prayer. “Love your neighbor as yourself” turns into “Love yourself as your neighbor”, or “Love yourself, your family, your close friends, and your acquaintances, in that order’.

I can’t stand being like this anymore. I can’t stand myself. I can’t fathom the idea of watching a hidden video of myself from today and one from 15 years ago and seeing that the only thing that has changed is my appearance. I don’t want to fit in, I don’t want to keep up with traffic, or follow a flock of dingy sheep who are meandering around without their shepherd. Do you? Really, is this who you want to be?

No matter how many bad breaks I think I’ve had (out of my own control), I still think my own “successes” are because of my own awesomeness. I forget quickly how much grace upon grace has been lavished upon me, to keep me from being one of those with awful circumstances. If I hadn’t been born into a family with good education and means, I could have been unqualified for a good job and college, then a few more tragedies could have landed me on the streets. Or I could have been born in a country where the gospel isn’t shared, where human trafficking is a way of life. Just a degree or two of separation keeps us all from many different courses of life, and many of us aren’t as fortunate as others. I can’t worship the God who saves at the same time I look down upon those who He hasn’t saved yet. Or looking down on those who are already Christian brothers or sisters but whose circumstances aren’t as blessed as I am. Or–I seriously can’t believe that any human being has done this, including myself–looking down upon others who aren’t as “cool” as we might desire. Basically being a pagan bully who uses more self-control and wears a holy disguise. All these are like serving two gods. Or worse.

The perfect Savior, who IS LOVE, came to earth to make God known to us, and will continue to do that so the love God has for Jesus will be in us (John 17:26). If His perfect love is in us, we must show the same thing, even if it is the undeserved grace that He gives us, to the other people on earth who He loves so deeply. I pray for that love to reign in you today, and in this world until the new heaven and earth are created!