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I had a rather unusual experience recently. The experience itself wasn’t so strange, it happens more than I would like, but my response and reaction to it were different enough that I noticed it (as did my wife Angela).
I have a friend who I respect very much, who has been making big time progress in his spiritual walk with Jesus. It’s been awesome to see his growth over the time I have known him. He called me one afternoon last week to confess that he (in his words) “had blown it big time” (at least that’s what I remember him saying). He had found himself in a bad situation and quite honestly had done something that I don’t think anyone would argue was sinful. He was broken over it, quite distraught and seeking forgiveness (and punishment if that’s what was necessary).
Sadly, this has happened to me in the past, where a friend has sinned and then I either hear about it, talk to them or they call me themselves (it’s the cost of being in a church leadership position). Typically I launch into fire control “Mr. Fix-it” and get on what needs to be done to correct the problem (whatever it is).
The other thing that I realized often happened, is that I was angry at them. I felt angry that they had done something evil, possibly covered it up, and then made themselves, as well as myself and The Water’s Edge by association look bad. I had a tendency to feel offended somehow, and that they had wronged me, as opposed to God.
This time, something different happened. I felt sad. I felt sorrowful for them, and then I felt compassion.
We of course dealt with this situation to ensure wrongs were righted as much as possible, but I found my emotional reaction to this situation interesting to me.
If you know me, I tend to be a “black and white” type of person historically. Just ask my folks!
However, I was reflecting on what Jesus said in his Parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15:11-32. Many of us know this story. The younger son leaves the father, squanders his inheritance, comes to his senses, comes home and while still a long way off his father sees him and…
The Father feels compassion for him (Luke 11:2o).
The son is coming home, but hasn’t even done anything yet to even ask for forgiveness, the father sees this sinful, broken person person and the first feeling he feels is “Compassion” for his lost son. He doesn’t have to manufacture it, he feels it it for real.
The son confesses that he has sinned and failed the father, and the father doesn’t correct him (because he DID sin and fail), but the father decides to welcome him back anyways. He clothes his son in his own clothing (a Jewish was of re-instating the son as a part of the family).
This is how God feels when someone has fallen, he feels compassion, and if the person desires to come back, God welcomes him back with open arms. No waiting period, no trial, no stipulations, just Grace.
The older brother in this story didn’t feel that way, he felt angry, like the younger brother should be punished for what he did and that he younger brother had received mercy and favor from the father, in spite of what he did.
I think I have been the older brother for most of my life as a Christian, and that God is changing this about me. I found myself feeling the way about someone who has fallen the same way God feels about them, and that encouraged me that maybe God is making some progress in me after all. I say this out of shame for my previous behavior and feelings toward people, not to pat myself on the back for my current feelings. God’s Grace has indeed been great to me, a huge sinner myself.
I know some people think The Water’s Edge is soft on sin, or that we don’t call people to repentance. That’s not what is really happening. What is happening is people are falling, people are failing, and we feel compassion for them, because we have been there! We understand that feeling. And if they desire to come back to be a part of our Gathering, we welcome them back as our long lost Brothers.
I will no longer be the angry older brother, and we as a church cannot be content with feeling angry or superior to our brothers and sisters who fall.
If you are hurting right now, if you have blown it, if you are ready to start over, then welcome home. Welcome to the Water’s Edge. You are among family here.
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