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Dec28ThuGrace means getting our hands dirty. December 28, 2017 by Lieutenant Erin Metcalf
Above: Volunteers clear rubble from a collapsed building after the earthquake that hit central Mexico in September, helping professional rescue workers search for survivors
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
This is amazing grace,
This is unfailing love,
That you would take my place,
That you would bear my cross.
You laid down your life
That I would be set free.
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that you’ve done for me.
—Phil Wickham, This is Amazing Grace
If you watched the news in October following the mass shooting in Las Vegas—the largest mass shooting in modern American history—you would have heard stories of heroic and selfless acts of bravery. Perhaps you heard about Jonathan Smith, who saved 30 people that night before he was shot in the neck and miraculously survived. Or Sonny Melton, who shielded his wife, Heather, with his body—he died and she lived.
I am always amazed by the courage people show in times of crisis. Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, jumping in front of her son, Isaiah Henderson, and saving his life during the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla. Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, wading through waist-deep water filled with sewage and debris to look for people in need after hurricane Maria. And photos of people forming human chains, clearing rubble to search for survivors, after the devastating earthquake in Mexico.
Grace. The free and unmerited favour of God. We freely receive because he freely gives himself away. Carefully read, the story of the Bible is one of God always leaning in closer and closer—seeing our sorrow, pained by our suffering. In Jesus, God’s favour or grace is made complete.
Do you remember this song?
Oh, be careful little feet where you go,
Oh, be careful little feet where you go,
There’s a Father up above ,
And he’s looking down in love,
Oh, be careful little feet where you go.
The verses warn us to be careful with our eyes, ears, hands and mouths. The song warns us that if we wander into the world too far, we will somehow wander out of the love of God. How strange, when Jesus showed us exactly the opposite.
Jesus touched the sick, walked into the house of the tax collector, spoke openly with the woman at the well and listened to the cries of the desperate. There is a danger in teaching a theology of personal salvation that avoids the dark places in the world. There is a danger in limiting grace to what happens within the walls of our churches. There is a danger in limiting where Jesus will show up.
Are we able to look with his eyes and see a woman so filled with grace and love that she throws herself in front of bullets to save her son? Are we able to walk with his feet and see suffering people pull together to rebuild a community after the devastation of a hurricane? Are we able to see his hands at work as countless men and women run toward gunfire to save others?
Are we willing to consider that these could be acts of grace? That these are, in fact, acts of grace? Are we willing to consider that in those dark places, Jesus showed up through the grace-acts of selfless people?
I’m not aware if any of the people who performed these heroic acts were followers of Jesus, but they were vessels of grace all the same. They laid down their lives freely so that others could be saved.
Jesus laid down his life so we could be set free, but what we do with that freedom and how we see that freedom at work in this world is far more important than how often we sing about it. Do I take this freedom, this life that I have in Jesus, into the dark places in the world? Or am I content to sing songs on Sunday and hope I never have to actually be his hands and feet? Or worse—do I believe in a God who would have me stay safely behind the walls of my church so my hands and feet (and ears and eyes and mouth) stay clean?
I don’t think so.
Lieutenant Erin Metcalf is the corps officer at Niagara Orchard Community Church, in Niagara Falls, Ont.