I love my idealized self. The me that I imagine in my head is really amazing.

I have a far more difficult time loving the self who actually exists in the real world. The real me has weaknesses and flaws.

The story of Jesus shows us that God loves us, the real us, weak and flawed.

Tom Wright helped me see this in Jesus’ appearance to Peter in John 21:9-17, in ways that are not obvious in many of our English translations.

Setting of the Story: The smell of a charcoal fire burning was in the air as Jesus cooked breakfast. Peter had smelt a charcoal fire burning earlier in the Priests Courts where he had denied Jesus three times.

Jesus: Peter, do you love me?

Peter: Yes, Lord I am your friend.

Jesus: Feed my lambs.

Jesus: Peter, do you love me.

Peter: Lord, I am your friend.

Jesus: Feed my sheep.

Jesus: Peter, are you my friend?

Peter was grieved that he could not say more, and that Jesus had to adjust the question.

Peter: Lord, you know everything. You know that I am your friend.

Jesus: Feed my sheep.

A couple of observations on this story:

First, Jesus meets Peter where he is. Surely, both men would have preferred for Peter to say that he loved Jesus. He could not do it.  Jesus accepted what Peter could give.  Likewise, Jesus graciously meets us were we are.

Second, Jesus’ forgiveness comes in the form of a commission for Peter. That pattern still holds true today. We are forgiven and we are sent. All authentic ministry is rooted in the forgiving love of God.

May we learn to accept the love of the God who has taken our denials and our imperfections and has graciously dealt with them in Jesus.

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On  Good Friday I participated in one of the most meaningful experiences of my years  in ministry.

At the conclusion of Elmbrook’s Good Friday service the congregation went to cross stations. When a person arrived at the station, a pastor marked their arm with a marker attached to a metal spike. This act symbolized the act of crucifixion.  While marking their arm, the pastor looked into the person’s eyes and repeated Jesus’ declaration, “It is finished.

Initially I was unsure about this experience, but I was quickly struck by its power. I looked hundreds of people in the eyes (Dancing eyes. Tearful eyes. Relieved eyes. Thankful eyes.), take their arms (White arms. Brown arms. Small arms. Bulging arms. Arms with cuts.), and proclaim God’s grace.  I saw God’s grace deeply move people.  I was also able to receive that grace myself.

I did not want those moments to end … but the service concluded.

Here are a few ways to continue living in the beauty and power of “It is finished.”

1. Personally Engage Others: There was something powerful about touching a person’s arm and looking them deep in the eyes.  All of us are made for deep connection. Yet, we often just pass by people while hurrying on to the next thing. We can break that pattern by intentionality looking into the eyes of others.

2. Extend God’s Grace to Others: While saying “It is finished” to people at the service, I was proclaiming that the grace of God has taken care of their “it.” We all an “it” that is weighing us down. This weight visibly lifted from many people as they heard God’s grace proclaimed. We do not have to wait until Good Friday to proclaim this good news. The grace of God should flavor our conversation.

3. Remember God’s Grace is for You: Part of the beauty of seeing the grace of God relieve others was that I had a deeper realization of that grace for myself. I often pick up burdens of  anxiety, pressure, guilt and shame. I need reminders of the good news, “It is finished.” That old way of life is dead. I do not have to bear the weight any more. I can live in freedom, even after Good Friday.

Why do people do good things?

We are often moved by external motivators.

–          Positive motivators or  “Carrots”

–          Negative motivators or “Whips”

We can also have internal motivators.

–          We want to do something because we see value in it.

–          It is our natural reaction.

External motivators are a lousy way to live a good life.

Philemon 14: so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.

Paul was about to make a big request of Philemon. However, he was not only interested that Philemon do the good thing. He wanted him to do the right thing for the right reason.

Paul did not want Philemon to do the right thing because he was coerced. He was not interested in people being feared, shamed, or seduced into conformity.

Paul wanted Philemon to do the good out of his own free choice. He wanted people to live lives of grace and peace because they were touched by the grace and peace of King Jesus.

God does not call a people who simply conform out of external pressures. God calls a people who are changed internally and therefore live different lives.

I have asked myself this question a lot recently: Why do I do good things?

I am often tempted to act certain ways or say certain things because of the response of others – either gaining praise or avoiding conflict or shame. It is an act that cannot be sustained.

I need something more, something internal. I need the grace and peace of God to mold me so that I naturally live grace and peace, regardless of the praise or conflict that it might bring.

Why do you do good things?

To gain external praise, acceptance, blessings?

To avoid shame, conflict, punishment?

Life under king Jesus can be more free and more powerful than navigating external motivators. God’s grace and peace can transform  us into new people, a good people who do good.

The way that we frame things in life makes a world of difference, doesn’t it?

I do not like waking up in the middle of the night.

When my neighbor comes home at 2:30am after bar hoping and wakes me up by slamming doors and shouting – It is the worst offense to me, they are horrible people, my day is ruined.

When my 4-year-old daughter comes into my room and wakes me up with hugs and kisses – It is really cute, she is precious, I love those moments.

Framing makes a difference.

Paul was a leader in the early Jesus Movement. He helped start a number of Jesus communities, and continued to guide them through letters. These letters often addressed serious problems in the young churches. We are fortunate to still have many of these letters to gain wisdom from today.

One of the common pieces that we find in these letters is a greeting of “Grace and Peace.”
Anywhere that Paul sent a letter he framed it with, “Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and Jesus our King.”
Whatever the audience – “Grace and Peace.”
Whatever the relationship – “Grace and Peace.”
Whatever the problem needed addressed – “Grace and Peace.”
Whatever the conversation – “Grace and Peace.”

For Paul, the way of looking at conversations, relationships, and even life itself is through the framing of Grace and Peace. Paul believes Grace and Peace define the way of God in Jesus.

Can you image the difference that framing life in Grace and Peace could make?

Let us begin following Paul’s example and frame our conversations with Grace and Peace.