so much grace
my social justice book club is reading the book generous justice by timothy keller and it is pretty much wrecking me. i started it a month or so ago and just wasn't ready to read it, but my book club meets on friday night so i have to get a move on. nothing like the accountability of a book club meeting to get me into gear.
the first thing that hit me was this concept of bearing one another's burdens. it's really hard to do this well, i think. there's this balance, and i have a hard time achieving it. either i keep the burdens at bay, or i drown myself in them. i want to make sure i keep my family in good working order first and i don't want to take things on that result in sacrifice in some area of caring for my own family. i've been in a groove before and then drowned myself in bearing the burden of another and then totally knocked myself off my groove and took a long time to recover. that makes me want to put up walls to protect myself. but this bit really punched me in the gut.
"if we are never obligated to relieve others' burdens but only when we can do it without burdening ourselves, then how do we bear our neighbor's burdens, when we bear no burden at all?" GOOD QUESTION. it SHOULD cost me to bear the burden of another. that's part of the bearing part of bearing burdens. so if i'm uncomfortable, inconvenienced, etc. as i'm bearing another's burden, THATS NORMAL. and if i'm not, then likely i "bear no burden at all." bearing the burdens of another COSTS something. if it doesn't, i'm not doing it right. therefore, i shouldn't be afraid of it costing me something to do it. that's just part of the gig. time to sit sin that discomfort and be ok with the fact that it's uncomfortable. welcome to life, brittain.
that was gut punch one. and then this part just knocked me down. "we all want to help kind hearted, upright people, whose poverty came upon them through no foolishness or contribution of their own, and who will respond to our aid with gratitude and joy. however, almost no one like that exists... the causes of poverty are complex and intertwined." i love that "however" part. HOWEVER, ALMOST NO ONE LIKE THAT EXISTS. as in. that's cute that you want to wait for the people who make all the right decisions and end up in a bind. cause for all intents and purposes, THEY DON'T EXIST. IDIOT.
"in dealing with the objection that many of the poor do not have upright, moral characters, [edwards] counters that we did not either, and yet christ put himself out for us: christ loved us, and was kind to us, and was willing to relieve us, though we were very hateful persons, of an evil disposition, not deserving of any good...so we should be willing to be kind to those who are...very undeserving." kind of reminds me of romans 5:8: but god demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, christ died for us." WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS. not after we got our act together and made all the right decisions and did all the right things. no, while we were dead in our sin separated from him, making all the wrong decisions and doing all the wrong things. which we continue to do on account of being human and wrestling constantly with the human inclination to sin. so like. the perfect god of the universe has grace on me, a sinner dead in my sins before i accepted his sacrifice to pay my sin debt and put me in right standing before god. i'm not longer dead in my sins, but i still sin. all the time. but somehow i think i'm better than the next person, especially those who make poor decisions and end up in a bind. as if their "sin" is somehow different than mine (it's not).
this made me think of the story in the bible jesus told about the money lender who forgave two debts, one small and one large, with the lesson that the one who has been forgiven much loves much and the one who has been forgiven little loves little. i’ve read this story so many times and always thought that they key to being more loving is being forgiven of many sins. like, if i haven't done a lot of REALLY REALLY bad things, then i can't fully appreciate the grace god has shown me. but it hit me differently this time.
what if the key is to understand i HAVE been forgiven much, no matter the gravity or quantity of my sin. one sin is enough to separate me from god for all eternity without the sacrifice jesus made to reconcile me to him. jesus didn’t die any less for me than he did for anyone else in all of history, and all future to come. what if the key is just understanding that it’s not a matter of how many sins i have or haven’t committed, but that i am the chief of all sinners by nature of being human. i am no better or worse than the next person. we are all each individually the chief of all sinners. and if that’s the case, there is no point in comparison. we are all the same. if i committed only one sin in all my life and another person committed an infinite number of sins -- if neither of us believed in jesus and accepted his sacrifice to pay our debt so we could be restored to a right relationship with god -- both of us would still be damned to eternal separation from god upon death. all that to say. if i really understand that i HAVE been forgiven much, as much as the next person, then there would no comparison, no judgement, no self-righteousness -- only grace.
i struggle constantly. just like the biblical examples we have been given, such as abraham and david in the bible. how kind is our god to allow us to read of broken people whom he used for his purposes. broken people he deems men after his own heart, like david. how beautiful is that. how gracious is our god. and these examples? they screw up incessantly. and they incessantly repent. how many times did god forgive them? how many times must i follow that example since he has and will continue to forgive me infinitely? thank god he does not love us with a broken, half-hearted love. thank god his justice is not mine (because i would be eternally damned if that were the case). and oh how i need him and his love and grace and justice, and oh how i want that so deep in my own heart and mind that it flows out from me to others.
pride keeps me self-righteous. but i have nothing to be proud of. i have no righteousness apart from the righteousness bestowed on me by the sacrifice jesus made to pay for my sins. i am a perpetual sinner. i need his forgiveness every single day. especially since becoming a stay at home mom. my small child just has this magical way of bringing out the worst version of me (anyone else?). or at least that’s my experience. sleep deprivation, tyranny, and complete lack of reason. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. boy do i need the grace of god to face every day and every night. boy do i need to understand the depth of my own depravity and the grace god has for me every moment of every day, his love that never changes no matter what i say, think, or do.
when i’m in a downward spiral reflecting on my sin (usually because of my emotional intensity and feelings and passion that get the best of me and i can’t get out of my own head) and thinking “how can anyone love me? i hate the way i am and the way i process things. i am so unlovable and no one could love me the way i am!” god loves me no less in those moments. he doesn’t withhold his love, kindness, or affection for me. he doesn’t withdraw from me. he shows his grace, his unchanging love. he is the perfect parent that i want to be and can never be because i am human. and so i must fix my eyes on him, and point to jesus as i mess up this motherhood thing every day of my life. i am not righteous in my own power or ability. i can do nothing to achieve righteousness before god on my own. i need god and the sacrifice of his son jesus. my child needs god. i am not god, i am just a fellow human messing up and repenting, always pointing to him. and if he can have grace for me, then i can have grace for me. and for my child. and my husband. and for my friends and family. and even for (or maybe most importantly for) GASP -- my enemies.
so. next time i catch myself judging the situation of another person (“they did it to themselves”), or being hesitant to reach out and help because i don’t want to make a sacrifice. i will stop. reflect on what god has to say about this in his word. remember that no one is righteous, especially not me. fill myself up with god’s grace, and let it overflow into the lives of those around me.
"how do we bear our neighbor’s burdens, when we bear no burden at all?" bearing burdens hurts. if it doesn’t, i’m not doing it right. and when i was still dead in my sin, jesus died for me. he bore the ultimate burden. paid the ultimate price with his own life. how much more should i be willing to show grace to a fellow sinner, the same as me. i HAVE been forgiven much. my response should be to love much. if it’s not, i still don’t understand what jesus did for me.
thank god for his love and grace.