Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Time for Extravagance

Extravagant grace. Extravagant love. Extravagant forgiveness.

I never quite understood any of this (and still don't fully) until I read "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom. After that book, nothing in life seemed to be as bad as what she went through. My life seemed so small in comparison - my problems became "first world problems."

After my last post, some have wondered about the extravagant grace I was offering to the mother... was it too much? How can I find the room to heap grace upon someone who held the keys to save a life? It's the same reason I can heap grace onto a woman who tells me she aborted her unborn child. The same reason I think there's still hope for men and women who are currently sitting in prison. Does it make the action right? Of course not. Am I lessening the weight of sin and poor choices? Absolutely not.

The guards in Nazi prison camps did horrendous things to prisoners. They humiliated them. They beat them. They killed them. However, in the end after it was all said and done, Corrie Ten Boom, who was the ONLY survivor from her age of women in the prison camp (by a clerical error within one week's time of the mass killing), traveled around trying to rehabilitate former prisoners. She spoke of the need to forgive in hopes that everyone could live in peace once again. But then, it happened... she was faced with the first of her actual jailers. And not only that, but he approached her! Read on to find out what happened...

It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck.  He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time.  And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing.  “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” he said.  “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”
His hand was thrust out to shake mine.  And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them.  Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?  Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand.  I could not.  I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity.  And so again I breathed a silent prayer.  Jesus, I cannot forgive him.  Give me Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened.  From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His.  When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.

Corrie later went on to describe that moment as never knowing God's love so intensely as she did right then. His extravagant love and forgiveness. Jesus Christ has died for all of us; are we going to ask for more? Are we going to ask for more when we encounter people who sin so greatly in our eyes that we just don't have it in our hearts to forgive them?

I know of a few instances off the top of my head where I just didn't have it in me to forgive someone who had done me wrong. It hurt too much. It was too close. The wound was still fresh. But I also knew that Jesus had enough forgiveness for the both of us, and as I willingly walked it out, He did the forgiving through me and I was eventually able to say with confidence that I forgave. It wasn't quick, it certainly wasn't pain-free, and reconciliation was not always involved. But forgiveness was there, and continues to be.

Maybe I'm too much- but He was too much, first. None of us deserved it then, and none of us will ever deserve it... EVER. It's risky to offer extravagant grace, love and forgiveness. I'm positive that in this world, that kind of love, grace and forgiveness won't feel good... I might even get hurt. But I'd rather risk the triple jump in hopes that He'll help me land it, than just play it safe and barely get off the ground.

Lord, help me give what you've so readily and extravagantly given me. I'm not perfect, and I won't always get it right. I'm taking a risk right now even talking about this in public, because I'm certain that I won't always get it right. But I do know that when you tell me to love, forgive and extend grace... that you will also provide it. Amen.

1 comment:

Kristen Pesnell said...

Enjoyed this post! An eye opener!