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Give extra grace where it is required

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By Dave Charlton

 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 

19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 

23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 

24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 

25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.

 

¾Luke 5:18-25

 

A friend recently spoke to me about people who fall into the category of EGRs. Being one of the last people on earth to know the meaning of the acronym LOL, I had no idea of the meaning of EGR so, of course, I asked. EGR, he said, means someone who is at a point when extra grace is required. Indeed, sometimes, extra grace is required. And, sometimes, it is a LOT of extra grace that is required. 

 

Some people need extra grace
because of their circumstances.

The man of whom Luke spoke needed extra grace because of his circumstances, which were quite difficult.

Luke tells us the man was paralyzed, which meant, in that day and time, he had no hope of his circumstances changing. Fortunately, however, his friends saw someone who was more than the sum of his circumstances.

Without a doubt, there are many people in our world who need extra grace because of their circumstances. There are so many people in our world, for example, who are poor, and living in poverty it is very, very difficult. It is made even more difficult by the harsh reality that sometimes poor people are blamed for their circumstances, as some will say things such as they are poor because they are lazy, or, they are poor because they aren’t really trying.

I have never met anyone who has wanted to be poor. Never. To be poor is a very difficult, grinding reality, and those who want to blame them for their circumstances need to understand there are many systemic reasons why people are trapped in poverty, making their circumstances far beyond their control.

People are, actually, so desperate to escape poverty that they will embark on dangerous, perilous journeys to come to our country or other countries in order to have a chance at a better life. Some travel for hundreds of miles, hoping to find a welcome and a promise of better circumstances, sometimes find nothing but danger and death along the way.

The grace of the paralyzed man’s friends allowed them to look beyond his circumstances. They did not pass him by as he pled for help on a street corner, they did not ignore him, and they did not blame him. Instead, they showed him grace by bringing him to Jesus, where he found healing.

 

Some people need extra grace
because of who they are.

There is something in this story that really puzzles me, and it is this – why was it necessary for the man’s friends to take him to the roof of someone else’s home, dig a hole in the roof of that home, and lower him through that hole in order to get him to Jesus?

Why did the crowd simply not make a path so the friends could carry their friend to Jesus? Were they so focused on their own needs that they could not offer a simple act of kindness and mercy?  Were they so dismissive of the man and his need that they ignored an opportunity to help him?

Perhaps the crowd could not see the man as a fellow child of God, a child of God who was in desperate need of compassion. Perhaps they simply saw a man who had been relegated by life to begging for a few alms on a street corner, a fate from which they could see no escape.

We live in a world that loves to categorize people, and after being placed in a particular category, people are then accorded either blessing or burdened with limitations. Even in churches – where it should be understood that every person is an equal child of God – people are too often categorized and then treated negatively because of the category in which they have been placed.

Churches are tearing themselves apart and denominations are tearing themselves apart fighting over who is and who is not acceptable to God. That is not our place, as God loves everyone. God does not place limits or boundaries on his love, and I find it preposterous that some people and some churches believe those limits and boundaries do exist.

I cannot imagine what God must think of the fighting and arguing done in his name over who is worthy of his love. We are not the gatekeepers to God, to his kingdom, or to his love. Just as the crowd would not part and make room for the paralyzed man, sometimes God’s own people do not get out of the way of those who are seeking after him and looking for his love. 

 

Sometimes, the person who needs
the extra grace is me, and you.

It is not always someone else who is the one in need of extra grace.

Sometimes, the person that needs the extra grace is me, and sometimes it is you. The reality is, we all need extra grace at some point.

Years ago, the congregation I served was involved in a ministry to distribute food, as many congregations do. One summer day, as we distributed the food from a local facility, it was very hot and we were short of help. I was helping carry boxes of food from the building to cars and I was hot, tired, and growing somewhat impatient and frustrated because I could not keep up with those who needed the help.

Towards the end of the afternoon, as I stood at the end of the line of tables, ready to carry out another large box of food, a gentleman walked up to me and told me he did not get several items that others had received. This was not unusual, unfortunately, as we had no control over the number or type of food items we received, and those who came through the line later in the afternoon sometimes found that we had run out of several of the food items.

Unfortunately, I did not receive his comments very well. In fact, I started to yell at him. I told him, sir, we are doing the best we can. We are volunteers, offering our time and assistance, and I think you should be grateful for what we are doing. It is not our fault that we have run out of some food items, so please stop complaining and accept what we have to give you. We could all be doing something else today, but we are here to help you and I think you should be more grateful!

After continuing my rant for several minutes, it suddenly became apparent to me that everyone in the room had stopped and was looking my way. In that moment I thought to myself, what in the world am I doing?

I was embarrassed by my behavior, apologized to the man, and then went down the line and apologized to everyone who was present. As I picked up the man’s box of food to carry it to his car I apologized to him again. Then, he put his arm around my shoulders and said, it’s all right. Don’t worry about it. I very much appreciated his graceful response, which was a powerful lesson to me, and I have thought of it often.

Sometimes, we are the person who needs the extra grace. When we are tempted to think we are more deserving of God’s love – or tempted to think someone is not at all deserving of God’s love – let us pause and remember that we are all in need of grace.

Thankfully, God is in the business of offering grace, and offering whatever amount of grace is necessary. Extra grace is often required, so let us be quick both offer it, and to receive it.