Monday, April 9, 2012

Mercy, Grace and the Good News

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter!  Many of you would probably say the highlight of this holiday season was filled with love, laughter, family, friends and a celebration of an empty tomb.  Mine was slightly different.  I had all of the above but the highlight was the lesson I learned from losing my four year old at church.

I had taken both my boys (J.D. is 6 and Jon is 4) into the sanctuary with me at church to practice special music with the praise team.  J.D. asked me if he could go to the bathroom and Jon asked me for a peppermint.  I told J.D. to go ahead, gave Jon the peppermint and turned to greet one of my friends.  When I looked again I didn't see Jon.  This was not a problem because I thought he had gone to find his brother.  But then J.D. came back without Jon so I asked where he was.  He said, "I don't know, I haven't seen him."  I searched high and low with a mixture of emotions flowing through me.  At first, I was just irritated because Jon often disappears like this but he usually isn't very far - he's just distracted by something and not paying attention to the fact his name has been called about 10 times!  Then I found that he was NOT anywhere nearby and I start to get worried.  By the time I saw him walking with Mr. Brett to his Sunday school room across the courtyard, I was in a full panic!  I ran (in heels!) across the elders Sunday school class, burst out the door and bellowed, "JONATHAN!"

I cannot recall being so angry, yet relieved, with one of my children.  True, he was only gone for ten minutes but it was the longest ten minutes of my life!  And now that I had him back safe and sound...he was gonna get it!  I was shaking with emotion as I interrogated him trying to figure out where he had gone (he had gone to show his Sunday school teacher his peppermint).  I told him, "Son, I am too angry to whip you right now, but I am going to whip you when we get home this afternoon!"  

And I fully intended to!  However, God used the time in between to show me a teachable moment.  When we got home, I took Jon into the bedroom and we talked about what he had done wrong and why I was so upset with him.  When we finished I asked him what was about to happen.  The poor kid began and to cry and moaned, "You're gonna whip me!"  Very quietly I replied, "No, I'm not going to whip you.  Do you know why?  Because it is Easter.  And God showed us great mercy today."  I continued to explain that the Bible tells us that because we all do things that are wrong that we deserve to be punished.  But God sent Jesus to die on the cross and forgive us so we wouldn't have to be punished.  And that is mercy.  

Ordinarily, I would have let my emotions rule, yelled and spanked my son then felt horrible later on.  However, my Heavenly Father got a hold of my heart before I could lay hands on my son.  I want my children to understand the extraordinary gift of salvation...but how are they to do that if they do not first understand mercy and grace?  How are they going to know what mercy is if they do not see it in me?  How are they going to extend grace to others if it is not extended to them at home?  

Better yet, how are we to show a lost and dying world their need for a Savior if we don't show them what Jesus' love looks like?  Maybe it is time we showed them mercy.  Maybe it is time we extended them grace.  Mercy to come just as they are - with no judgement for where they are or where they have been; grace in giving them love and friendship they have not earned.  Isn't that is what attracted so many to Jesus?  He attracted the broken, the sinful, the lost, the sick, the outcast...He attracted me!

This Easter season, I am so grateful God did not give me what I deserve!  To most unbelievers, God is an angry God who is just waiting to punish those who step out of line; the Bible is an encyclopedia of thou-shalt-nots; and Christians are a bunch of stiffs running around trying to please an impossible Deity.  And can I tell you something?  Some Christians believe this too!  Some of us have forgotten that the blood of Jesus covers ALL of our sin.  That means the sins we committed before we came to Christ, the sins we may be entertaining right this second and our future sins!  Because of God's mercy we did not get what we deserve (death) and because of His grace we now have an inheritance we in no way deserve (eternal life)!  This truth should be a cause for celebration each and every day, it should cause us to have joy no matter our circumstances.  Now, let's get happy and spread the GOOD NEWS!

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