Thursday, March 27, 2014

On Vouchers and Grace

As pastor I often get people in seeking assistance.  It was not one of my favorite things to do when I started in ministry, but the more I do it, the more I enjoy it. Except for when I don't.  Two recent examples come to mind.

Our church is right on main street, the only one, and so I often get benevolence requests from people traveling through town.  One day I pulled up in the parking lot over by the dumpster to throw something in, and a lady got out of her car parked by the office door and came over.

"Are you the pastor?"  she asked

I really didn't want to say yes, because I knew where this was going.  But lying about being a pastor seemed especially wrong, so I told her I was.  I got a long story about a doctors appointment in a far away town, a broken gas gauge, etc etc.  She asked for money for gas, and when I was not quick to reply she jumped in telling me

"My pastor at home said anyone who won't give me gas is not a true man of God"

I had an errand to run and it couldn't do anything right that moment and told her come back in about 30 minutes. She never did, so I guess she didn't need it that bad. We help people often, in all sorts of ways.  But I was really put off by her demanding some help.

Last week a man came in just wanting to talk, and so we did.  He had been without work, and was discouraged.  He was actively looking, but hadn't hit anything yet.  I offered some help for him from the ministerial alliance, and he became overwhelmed.  A twenty dollar gas voucher and twenty dollar grocery voucher brought him to tears.  He knew he didn't deserve it, even though it wasn't much.  He offered to work to pay for it, and I told him no.  This is from the church to you, I explained.  As God has blessed us, so we bless others.  He again pressed to do some work, and I said maybe next time, but for now take this as grace to you.

Seeing him overwhelmed at a small offer got to me as God spoke to my heart.  Am I overwhelmed at His offer for me?  I surely don't deserve the gift of His son he gave to me, but I still bang on the door to heaven, demanding that God give me all I want.  I'm too much like the first woman, because I think I'm entitled to handouts from God.  With arrogrance I approach the throne of grace, demanding God fix my problems.

But that defies what grace is.  My pastor growing up explained it like this

Justice is getting what you deserve

Mercy is not getting what you deserve

But grace, God's grace, is getting what you don't deserve.  Grace is the balance between justice and mercy.

Imagine I get pulled over by a policeman for speeding.  I was speeding and he gives me a ticket.  Justice.  I got what I deserved

Or I get pulled over for speeding. He gives me a warning.  That's mercy.  Not getting what I deserve.

Now imagine I get pulled over for speeding, the officer writes me up, and then pays the ticket for me.  That's neither justice or mercy.  It's grace. It's getting what I don't deserve.

There is no reason that we should not be constantly overwhelmed by the grace of God.  He showers us in love and kindness as only a gracious God can.  His son paid the debt that we owe, giving us eternal life. Giving us what we don't deserve.

Be overwhelmed by His grace and ask God for a new vision for all he's done for you. When you stop demanding and realize your position before a Holy God, you can't be anything but grateful.

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