We have been taught to avoid messes. “Wash your hands.”
We have been taught that tidy is preferred. “Clean your room.”
We have machines that wash our clothes, clean our floors, and sanitize our dishes. Who doesn’t know the slogan for Bounty paper towels? I know in your brain you are saying “The Quicker Picker Up-er!”
Why shouldn’t God’s grace be neat and tidy too?
Here is how dictionary.com lists messy:
1. characterized by a dirty, untidy, or disordered condition: a messy room.
2. causing a mess
: a messy recipe; messy work.
3. embarrassing, difficult, or unpleasant: a messy political situation.
4. characterized by moral or psychological confusion.
Disordered! Messy work! Embarrassing! Confusing! Does this sound anything like the Grace of God to you?
It does to me. And it makes me smile.
Untidy, disordered- means EVERYWHERE, and not caring where that everywhere is. Under stuff, on top of stuff, around stuff- even if it’s yucky stuff. Grace has been shown to me at my lowest moments. At times when I could have and maybe should have been rejected. God’s grace wasn’t afraid of getting everywhere and surrounding my disordered condition. NOT tidying it up. NOT waiting until I was tidy before it came in. This Grace that gets everywhere is extended to everyone. On the cross, Jesus prayed “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” Luke 23:24
Causing a mess? Dirty work? Jesus caused a mess many places he went when he showed grace to others. I read today about the healing of the blind man, that required spit and dirt, touching a blind man’s eyes with muddy hands, upsetting a down, and causing the man and his parents to be interrogated, intimidated and insulted by the church leaders! Then the leaders threw the man OUT in the street! That’s a mess for sure! John 9
Embarrassing? Difficult? What about the looks Jesus must have gotten when he was found talking to the woman at the well? The Message says “No one said what they were they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.” John 4 And not just Jesus- but the Samaritan woman herself? Having to admit she has had five husbands and currently the man she was living with was not her husband? That must have been quite difficult and humiliating to admit. But then GRACE! And out of that grace she witnessed to the town. Can you think of some of the many other examples like this?
God’s grace is certainly characterized by moral and psychological confusion. It tends to go against what we have been taught. It goes against the rules created by man to keep order. I think that is one of the reasons we find it difficult to accept. Rocks were in the hands of those ready to follow the law and stone the woman caught in adultery when Jesus said “The sinless one among you, go first. Throw the stone.” They all walked away- I imagine with a lot of confusion to sort through. John 8
God’s grace is messy. I don’t like messy. I love it.
Maybe your favorite messy grace story is in the bible, maybe it’s a story you lived. Will you share it?