Pee Wee Herman had a classic kid line in his television shows, “I know you are, but what am I?” Do you remember that chant from the play ground? I do. It was the ultimate comeback, usually spoken by a kid who’d just been called a name. I know you are, is his shield of protection. Hopefully, when we grow up we let go of childish ways. Hopefully we don’t call eachother names and if it happens we have the Grace to let it fall, leaving us unharmed.
Sometimes though, we just come up with a more adult version of “I know you are.”
What are you the Holy Ghost Junior?
Oh yeah, that’s much more mature.
I’d shared a few days ago that someone had threatened to excommunicate a few of us for participating in something they didn’t approve of. I also shared the fear that threat caused, as well as God’s response to my pleas. This particular individual is just being a bully, and is not representative of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in any fashion way or form. It is one thing to lovingly come along side a brother or sister (friend) and offer instruction or guidance if that is your relationship and it is quite another to butt in where you don’t belong.
What I like about my experience this week is how God responded. He provided, first Grace and then correction. The Grace came when he let me know He heard me and I was still enough to listen for him. Being still is not a strong suit for mine. Truth be told, I’m not really sure that I give God a word in edgewise during most morning devotions. I’m a bit of a talker really. Even so, good as I am at tattle telling on people I presume to be acting as the Holy Ghost Jr, God wanted me to hear something about myself as well.
A Facebook friend posted a link to a Chuck Swindoll sermon on Romans 14 – I jumped on it and listened with the most self-righteous mindset that I’ve had in a long time. Festering wounds will do that you know, make you self-righteous.
And then something wonderful happened. Another friend emailed me the sermon. And then another. For whatever reason everyone was listening to Chuck this week. He’s doing a wonderful series on relationships and the Christian Life. I’m going to go back and listen to them all.
In the mean time though, Romans 14 really jumped out at me, and I wanted to share an example from my early Christian walk. I’m going to use the message translation here, but you are free to look this passage up in your own preferred translation if you’d like. This is not a teaching, but rather a sharing of how this passage looked to me, as a young Christian 15 years ago.
Romans 14: 1 1 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
We’d only been members of Trinity for a few of years before Jeff and I chose to sign up to lead the youth. Our oldest, Charlie, was in third grade and we wanted to be a part of his youth group. This was a huge step of faith for me. I lived in constant fear of doing something wrong – and thus being found unacceptable. Our first event as youth leaders was a collaborative effort with the other youth groups. We were doing an all church picnic with fundraisers for the youth and Jeff and I were in charge of the jail.
People could buy warrants and have people arrested at the picnic and they would be taken by a youth member and placed in our makeshift jail. They could either post bail, serve their time which was fifteen minutes, or if they had a get out of jail free card, they could show that and be released. I was in charge of the get out of jail cards and I wanted to be cute and creative.
I created Grace cards.
And I charged for them.
Grace, a free gift of God any other time, but not today.
That was the point wasn’t it? It was a fundraiser and get out of jail cards cost less than bail so I thought I was okay. The whole indulgences, and grace is free thing had not occurred to me. I wasn’t trying to be theological, I was trying to be cute.
Someone must have said something to pastor because before long he stopped by to inquire on what I was selling. Grace cards I said, they get you out of jail for free, would you like one?
Pastor took a step backwards, looked me up and down, thought for a minute about, weighing in I’m sure my enthusiasm and his probable theological concerns and simply stated, “You do know that Grace is a free gift from God and cannot be bought right?”
I’m sure I was purple as my words came tumbling out at 100 miles an hour, “Oh yeah, I knew that. I was just trying to be cute and this is a fundraiser and I wanted to do a good job and did I do something wrong?”
Pastor smiled, patted my shoulder, and stated, “no, you are fine. Keep up the good work.” and walked away.
The flat thud of grace for a new believer trying to do good. What a wonderful example to follow.
I need to remember not to jump all over someone, just because they don’t see things the way I do. No fair resorting to childish remarks like “Holy Ghost Jr.” I need to learn to extend Grace, because Grace has been extended to me.
So, what about you. Can you remember a time when you were extended Grace or extended Grace to someone? Would you share with us?