Sometimes (often times?) the church gets a bad rap because it does not operate perfectly. But can you point to any entity that is operated by humans that functions perfectly?
How about the school system? Hospitals and even doctors have huge insurance policies for malpractice. We are seeing airbags that are supposedly designed to protect us being recalled.
Are police departments without criticisms? What about our city or county governments? No?
Well, surely our national government and election process, that runs like a well-oiled machine, right?
OK, please stop snickering. Since we can agree that no organization operates without some degree of dysfunction, can we make a higher call for our organizations, including the church? Can we ask for some grace?
Grace. No I don’t mean saying a prayer of “grace,” like you would before a meal, although all of the entities I’ve listed could definitely use more prayer. No, I mean can we imperfect people give a little more grace and mercy to those who need it?
You have surely heard of marital spats and family feuds and church splits over the most mundane of causes. Divisions and divisiveness could possibly be avoided and certainly lessened if we all had a little more grace and mercy in our hearts for others who are less than perfect.
The story is told that a young man was sentenced to hanging and his mother came before Napoleon, pleading for mercy. “Mercy?” came Napoleon’s cold, incredulous response. “This boy has stolen from my palace twice. He doesn’t deserve mercy!”
“But sir,” the mother begged, “It would not be mercy if he deserved it.” Moved by the mother’s passion and persuasion, Napoleon relented and the boy was released.
Tolerance is not what is needed today, for tolerance implies that all views are equal in value and merit, when clearly that is not the case.
Grace is defined as unmerited favor, an undeserved gift, recognizing a wrong has been done but a greater gift of grace can be given to balance out the wrong.
In fact, grace exceeds and overcompensates the wrong.
The Apostle Paul knew about grace and the need of it within the church. He began every epistle which is recorded in the Bible with these words, “Grace to you and peace.”
Paul wrote more about grace than any other person in the Bible, including Jesus Himself. Paul knew he needed grace and had received grace and mercy from God.
Are you upset with the church or someone in the church? Have you been hurt by someone? Have you chosen to stop going to church because it has failed in your expectations? Are you holding a grudge or unforgiveness because of someone who “doesn’t deserve” to be forgiven?
The church is far from perfect. As surely as you can walk into a hospital and find people who are in need of healing, when you walk into a church, you will find people who are in need of grace. That is why we who are called Christians need to be the biggest dispensers of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness.
God is rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4) and did not spare his grace when we needed it. As the woman pleaded for mercy for her son who needed it, I ask you to be a dispenser of grace, mercy and forgiveness today to those who need it the most.
Even to those who don’t deserve it.
Tim McKeown is the associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Killeen and blogs at www.timothymckeown.blogspot.com.