Monday, November 22, 2021

On Grace

Yesterday, we looked at the idea of justice and how, too often, justice is held hostage to a bigger story of injustice that we can't seem to put in its proper place. As a result, justice is often perverted in the very places where we are most likely to find it, precisely because we are so caught up on all the places where our justice has failed and we can no longer simply let justice be justice; it somehow has to atone for all of the injustice or else, we think, it is nothing at all. 

That post ruffled enough feathers. "How can you defend someone like Kyle?" But it wasn't really a post about Kyle; it was a post about justice and about how we let our savage hunger to set things right in the world get in the way of our actually setting things right in the world - because we try to take bites that are just too big and end up making a bigger mess of things. 

The same thing could be said about grace.

The truth is that we are always holding the world - and other persons - hostage to the things that we perceive are wrong with it. To ideals that we have about the way that things should be. 

It's why we have so much judgment for the single mother who asks for help paying her bills. If she would just work a little harder, or if she hadn't made poor decisions previously in her life, then she wouldn't be here right now. It's why we judge so harshly the man fallen into alcoholism whose kids are now in foster care. If he just cared more about others than about himself, his kids would still have a father. And on and on and on we go, having an opinion on literally everyone's life with absolutely no justification for it except the ideals that we hold. 

Our judgment is so rarely, if ever, based on the actual circumstances of someone else's trouble; rather, it is rooted in the broken systems of our own lives, the things we would change if we had the chance. If only we were chosen for the jury...(and yet, most Americans despise actual jury duty and would do anything they could to get out of it. Ironic, right?). 

The further truth, and you've heard this before, is that our ideals actually arise out of our own broken places, out of the shadows of our own selves that we don't particularly love to wrestle with (or perhaps have come to insecure conclusions about). We hate that single mother because we know how hard we work to have as little as we have, and we hate that she isn't just dealing with it like we are. Or maybe we hate that our story isn't compelling enough to get others to help us the way they are leaping to help her. So we resent her and as a result of our resentment, we hold her hostage to our own perspective on what the world should be like...based on nothing but our own struggle through it. 

We hate that alcoholic father because we, too, have wished for an "out." We have wished for a way to numb our pain and to remove our responsibilities and just have a minute where we don't feel so heavily the weight of our own world, but because he's chosen it in brokenness, the world feels somewhat empathetic toward him, while we are simply broken by our burdens and no one seems to care. So we hold him hostage to our own perspective of what the world should be like...again, based on nothing but our own struggle through it. 

The places where we are least likely to offer grace are the places where we have needed it the most and precisely because, sadly, these are the places where we ourselves have been least likely to find it. 

Want to know why justice is such a hot button topic for us? It is because life isn't fair and so many of us feel this to the core of our being. We see it every time we open our eyes, every time we trudge through one more day. And then we see a case, a real case with a prosecution and a defense and facts that seem so cut-and-dried, like everything just magically falls on one side of justice or the other and it's so easy for our souls to crave that, so easy for us to say, finally! An "easy" one. And then, even justice is complicated, and it troubles down into our souls and we're back where we started - life is just hard. 

And this is why we are in such desperate need of more grace for one another. More grace for ourselves. More grace for justice. We can't keep holding this world hostage to our own experience of it. Rather, we have to keep our eyes on heaven and on the way God Himself intended things to be. Not how we wish them. Not how we desire them. But how we long for them in the core of our beings, in those places without words but just aches...longings for restoration and redemption and hope. And we have to live out of that. 

Otherwise, there is no justice - and no grace - for any of us. And why? Because out of our own pain, that is what we have chosen. 

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