Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BAGGAGE (02/08/18)
- TITLE: Grace - Undeserved – but also Unfair???
By Noel Mitaxa
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A silent, persistent prayer for wisdom blocked any contribution he might have made to this car-cophany; for he was on his way to an unexpected mentoring lunch with Craig. Craig had just been baptized, and they had begun working through some discipleship studies together; but earlier that morning Craig had phoned – with real fear in his voice.
Whatever was eating at Craig didn’t sound like the next page of the study guide; so rather than rush any unravelling by phone, Eric had offered lunch as a one-on-one way to disarm it. All morning, he’d shot up brief prayers for clarity for Craig and for discernment for himself; and traffic snarl or no traffic snarl, their lunch schedule was only ten minutes away.
A gap suddenly appeared to Eric’s right – a parking space displaying for him a prominent “Heaven” postmark! He accepted this personal delivery with another prayer. Of gratitude.
Once parked, he made his way to their agreed meeting spot. Where Craig was waiting; and looking hungrier for advice than for food.
Something light might be best thought Eric. Then aloud, “Hey Craig, that Subway looks fairly quiet. Let’s try it.”
Inside, they followed their selections along the assembly line and picked up the results. Eyes widened with uneasiness, Craig almost furtively led the way to a booth near the rear, where he quickly sat down and rested his cheeks in his hands.
“Heyyy, what’s got your goat?” asked Eric.
“Eric, you don’t know much about me,” Craig began, “but I’ve been in some bad stuff…
Occasional and tentative mouthfuls interrupted Craig’s flow of childhood pain and childish indiscretions; which paved the way for a career of petty, senseless crimes and fast living two states away. With his brother Marty, he’d got started in drugs, but had wrenched himself free and made his way to a new start in a new town. His amazement at the welcome he’d experienced at a church coffee shop opened him up to accept “whatever these weird people were on,” and he’d happily come into new life as a member of what he was now calling Jesus’ forever family.
“We’ve been excited by how you're growing, Craig. But what are you afraid of so suddenly?”
“Marty’s found out where I am, and how I’ve started following Jesus. He doesn’t like it, and he says he’s coming here to tell everybody what we’ve done. Eric, I don’t want anybody to know all that stuff, so I’ll have to get him – or get away. Everybody has been great here, I don’t wanna weigh them down; they don’t deserve that. Marty’s gotta be stopped!”
Eric reached across and gently punched Craig’s shoulder. With a reassuring smile, he replied, “You don’t have to go anywhere,Craig, and you're not weighing anybody down. You’ve never heard what some church folks have done in the past. Some of them have criminal records, but we don’t load them with grief or guilt. Like the bible says, we share God’s grace by sharing their burdens. Just like we have shared yours – not by grilling you for details, but by showing the same acceptance that Jesus keeps showing us with all our faults.”
Craig looked up, surprised, “But if what Marty tells them turns them against me, I’d never forgive him for that!” he replied, his fear slowly giving way to firmness.
“Nobody can stop Marty coming here. Or stop him saying whatever he wants to. But he can’t make them believe him. Who knows, he could get blown away by how Jesus accepts him through us – just like you found. After all, who’s bigger? Marty, you or Jesus?
“The grace Jesus offers us is completely undeserved, and we’re happy to accept it. But this same grace also leads us to forgive people who threaten us or hurt us, when we might prefer to let the stew for a bit. This is when grace seems unfair; but only forgiveness can help people – even Marty - to change in ways that none of our persuasion or criticism ever could.
“Like I said Craig, who’s bigger? Marty, you or Jesus?”
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