I don’t remember what I said only that my words were cutting and filled with anger. My husband looked at me stunned, confused, and hurt. He could have walked away, he could have retaliated but he didn’t. Instead, he walked toward me and wrapped his arms around me. He spoke gently, “Amy, this is not like you. What’s going on?” In that moment, I experienced grace in a way I had never experienced it before. All the anger, all the frustration, all the pain, all the shame was lifted from me. It changed me. Tears ran down my cheeks and my defenses fell as I melted into his embrace. Grace does that.
Jesus did the same for the people He encountered. Know what Jesus didn’t do? He did not demand that anyone get their act together before He would heal, forgive, or love them! He loved people just as they were. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself and He was not counting our sins against us! (II Corinthians 5:19) He extended love and grace to those who may have seemed to us to deserve it least.
Matthew was one of those “least.” He was a Jew who worked for the enemy, Rome, collecting taxes and robbing his own people. He was hated by the other Jews and considered to be the worst of sinners. Jesus went to Matthew right there on the job and simply said, “Hey Matthew! Follow me!” Then He went to Matthew’s house and had dinner with him! Scandalous! Know what Jesus didn’t do? He didn’t say, “If you will stop collecting taxes then I’ll be your friend and Savior.” Matthew left his job, invited others to meet Jesus and was a changed man. Grace does that.
In Jesus’ darkest hour His friend Peter abandoned Him, and yet when He rose from the grave He told the women at the tomb to go tell His disciples “and Peter” that He would see them in Galilee. Peter must have been relieved to hear that Jesus still considered him a disciple and that He had specifically wanted to see him! (Mark 16:7) I Corinthians 15:5 even tells us that Jesus went to Peter before He went to the other disciples! Know what Jesus didn’t do? He did not condemn Peter or wait for him to beg for forgiveness. Jesus sought him out! Peter went on to become a pillar of the Church, ministering to and comforting others, because he had been loved by Jesus. Grace does that.
In John 4 Jesus met a Samaritan woman who had been divorced five times and was currently living with a man who was not her husband. Know what He did? He offered her living water to quench the thirst in her heart for love. He did not tell her to get her act together or even to stop living with the man she was with. In her excitement, she left behind her water jug and ran to tell those she had previously hidden in shame from about Jesus. Many of them believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony. Grace does that.
In Acts 9 Saul was traveling to Damascus threatening and murdering anyone who followed Jesus. And know what Jesus did? He appeared to Saul and simply asked, “Why are you persecuting Me?” (because what you do to others, you do to Me). A few days later Jesus sent a man to tell Saul that God had chosen him to tell others about Him.Saul’s name was changed to Paul. Not only was his name changed but his heart was too. Jesus did not mention that Paul had been a murderer or a self-righteous know-it-all because where sin increased, grace abounded! (Romans 5:20) Grace does that.
In Luke 19 Jesus met another tax collector named Zacchaeus and said, “Hey Zacchaeus, get out of that tree and come here! I want to go to your house!” Jesus doesn’t say a word about the unsavory nature of Zacchaeus’s work or character. But Zacchaeus was changed. He declared he would give half his possessions to the poor and pay back anyone he had defrauded with interest! Grace does that.
Our ugly is God’s opportunity, a holy moment, when God gently whispers, “This is not like you. What’s going on?” And our lives are forever changed. Grace does that.