Being agents of grace

Being agents of grace

Thursday, 28 August 2014  | Narelle - MECS Principal
Hopefully you have finished pruning your roses! According to accepted gardening wisdom, a ‘hard prune’ in July will see abundant blooms in spring. I need no encouragement to give something a drastic cut-back in the garden. I have a reputation has a bit of a ‘hacker’. Once I get going there is often nothing left of the bush. I like to make things even and symmetrical, so one snip leads to another, and then another.  Often I am rewarded by my ruthlessness, but certainly I am not known for my light-handedness!

My desire to ‘clean things up’ and ‘sort things out’ is both a strength and a challenge for me. It’s certainly productive and often necessary, but I’m continuing to practice and learn the importance of compassion and gentleness, just as God is gracious and gentle with us.  
The following description of the coming Messiah, particularly what we read in verse 3, is one of my favourite biblical images of Christ.

1Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice. Isaiah 42:1-3

I’m sure we have all experienced times when we feel like a ‘bruised reed’ or a ‘smouldering wick’. To experience the compassion and grace of God, through others, is often what sees us through. We often don’t need someone to ‘fix’ our problems; we need encouragement, support, and gentleness. 

The challenge in any Christian community is to be ‘as Christ’ to one another. This can sometimes be hard – it can take time, energy, patience and tears. It sometimes means standing up for someone when others think we should ‘cut them loose’. It sometimes means being misunderstood by others in the Christian community who don’t know the full story. But the example of Christ is clear. The Gospels are full of stories that show Christ tending the ‘bruised reed’.

If we look at just one chapter in Luke, Chapter 7, we not only read about Jesus responding in compassion to a widow’s grief at the death of her only son, but also the gentle and patient exchange with a “woman who had lived a sinful life”. 

Luke 7:11-15
Not long after that, Jesus went to the village Nain. His disciples were with him, along with quite a large crowd. As they approached the village gate, they met a funeral procession—a woman’s only son was being carried out for burial. And the mother was a widow. When Jesus saw her, his heart broke. He said to her, “Don’t cry.” Then he went over and touched the coffin. The pallbearers stopped. He said, “Young man, I tell you: Get up.” The dead son sat up and began talking. Jesus presented him to his mother.

Luke 7:39, 44-47
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is - that she is a sinner.”
“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown…”

These two women have been ‘bruised by life’, but in Christ they find someone who shares their grief, who understands their story and who offers hope and forgiveness. To know that our stories ‘break the heart’ of Jesus is great comfort. God is not indifferent to the circumstances of our life; as Christians we cannot be indifferent to the needs of others. To know that Jesus does not condemn us, but offers compassion and forgiveness, also brings great comfort. As Christians we also need to be agents of extravagant grace, not the ones who ‘snuff out’ smouldering wicks.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that everything always works out as we would like. Sometimes our encouragement and support is not enough. Sometimes forgiveness is not well understood. Sometimes grace means letting go rather than holding on! But as a community of God’s people, may we not give up on the call to be more Christ-like in who we are and in all we do..

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