Month: November 2014

When Grace Doesn’t Strike Down, But Lets People Scarf Down

I just had to post this today based on yesterday’s sermon and based on something that happened to me yesterday. My sermon was all about giving grace to those who don’t deserve it. So after preaching 3x, I came home exhausted, only to discover that one of my kids had broken one of my cherished African art pieces. I bought this very cool woodwork 20 years ago in Ghana, West Africa. It was made of one piece of wood but was tangled together in a very unique way. And yesterday one of my kids got angry at his brother and threw it at him. And this is what I came home to…

IMG_3672

By God’s grace I did not flip out on my son, I just told him that I forgive him. Very simple: “I forgive you, son.” And then I woke up this morning to find, in his bed, that he had drawn a picture of it to try and make up for it…

IMG_3673

This reminded me of an incident in the Old Testament where grace also won the day.

As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, “O LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the LORD opened their eyes and they saw, and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. As soon as the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I strike them down? Shall I strike them down?” He answered, “You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel. 2 Kings 6:20-23

Some passages in God’s word have made “the Big Time.” By that I mean they are the more “famous” passages that many Christians know, that preachers preach more regularly on, that make it into children’s Bibles, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. But there are others that sometimes get “lost” due to the more famous stories. 2 Kings 6 is like that. It contains the well-known story of the floating axe-head (2 Kings 6:1-7) and the “unseen” horses and chariots of fire that were Elisha’s source of comfort and strength in the face of a Syrian army that wanted him dead (2 Kings 6:8-19).

But what follows these 2 events often gets overlooked. On the surface, verses 20-23 do not seem too exciting when compared with the previous narratives. Elisha had just caused an iron axe-head to float, then he followed that by asking Yahweh to open his servant’s eyes to see into the spiritual world, and then he asked Yahweh to strike the Syrian army with blindness because they wanted him dead. Pretty exciting stuff! And then Elisha has a BBQ for said Syrian army. Not so exciting. Or is it?

Elisha led the blind Syrian army to Samaria and took them behind enemy lines. He prayed that the Lord would open their eyes and “Voilà!” they could see again after a ten-mile trek. There they were; face to face with their enemy. Then the king of Israel asks Elisha if he should strike the Syrian army down with the sword. You expect that to happen at this point in the narrative. But Elisha responds that they should not be killed but rather be served some BBQ. What gives, Elisha? These people want your head on a platter and you want to serve them a great meal on a platter? What happened to you, Elisha?

Grace. That’s what happened; that’s what we see working here. Rather than give these wicked Syrian soldiers a taste of their own medicine, Elisha gives them a taste of some good ole fashioned Israeli cuisine. The Syrians feasted on bread and water (and I’m sure many other delicacies because the author describes it as a “great feast”) but what they really ate that day was grace. Grace has a way of lighting up every taste bud in your heart. That’s why the Syrians at least delayed their future battles with Israel (see verses 23 and 24). They were overwhelmed by the generosity of Elisha and the city of Samaria. The Syrian soldiers feasted on grace; they did not get what they deserved.

That’s how grace works. That’s how grace has always worked. Whether you’re behind enemy lines and enjoying a BBQ in the ancient Near East or messing up your life on the coast of California. Grace is there. We see grace most clearly in the Gospel. God does not give us what we deserve because of Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection.

I don’t know about you, but I love to feast on grace. I love to stuff myself with grace. I love the Gospel. But so many times I see myself acting like the king of Israel and wanting to “give people the sword” rather than give them grace. So many times I would rather strike people down with the sword instead of letting them scarf down on grace, even when they mess up my Chipotle order- especially when they break a cherished African wood piece. In these moments, I need to re-learn the Gospel from Elisha. He said, “Put the sword down. Let our enemies scarf down… on grace.”

When others wrong you, irritate you, offend you, hurt you, and get under your skin, don’t seek revenge. Try dispensing grace. Forgive as you have been forgiven (Colossians 3:13). My tendency is to rehearse over and over (with amazing accuracy!) the offense that I have suffered. Yet I struggle to rehearse (with amazing accuracy) the Gospel. Oh, that we would be people that rehearsed the Gospel and not grievances! Oh, that we would be a church that put the sword down and let others scarf down on grace!

Let the Gospel promise found in Proverbs motivate you to dispense grace today:

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22

If you dispense grace, there is a reward. If you dispense grace, the Gospel goes on display. If you dispense grace, God gets glory big time because the focus shifts away from you and your pity-party and your hurts and your self-absorbed mindset and your desire to seek revenge and it shifts to Jesus, which is where it belongs.

The church where I serve as a pastor is trying to take our first name seriously: Grace. We’re learning to forgive because we have been forgiven. We’re learning to dispense grace.

Put the sword down. Let people scarf down on God’s grace.