19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Why is grace a scandal to so many people? It seems like it would be the first thing you would want to embrace and hold dear! I have noticed a pattern which has developed since we have started living in the beautiful “Grace in Community” universe. Let’s say there are two people out there which I have never met. They are both heinous and horrid sinners, and they have deeply wounded and offended each other. This is no shock, because this is what people do. They break the law of love and justice and goodness and responsibility and they specifically and truly hurt each other. Since they have no way to really forgive since they don’t understand or believe in the power of Jesus’ blood to satisfy justice, they are driven to force one another to make amends or to pay somehow. They may be “Christians” but they believe that ultimately, moral failure rules their relationships. It is a never ending infinite loop that leads straight to hell.
None of this is unusual at all, it is normal life on planet earth. Now, suppose as a believer in real grace and in the deep power of Jesus’ blood, I meet one of these people, and I receive them. I speak grace and mercy into their life. I know there is sin in their life, and I know that they are probably putting on a big show to make themselves look good, because they have yet to trust my acceptance. They have never seen this thing before – real grace. However, I forgive even that, and gradually, we become real friends. We become fellow partakers of the body and blood of Jesus. As equally sinning ragamuffin losers, we come together at the table of the Lord and are lavished with grace far beyond what we deserve. It is beautiful!
Now, I have never met the other person. Or, perhaps I have not seen them in a very long time. They are still struggling with their self-important I-am-God-bow-to-my-wrath justice-for-me pretend-to-be-basically-righteous project. They cannot believe this other person has found acceptance and forgiveness! It is an OUTRAGE! You can’t forgive someone when they actually need forgiveness, OH MY GOD. It was not someone else’s place to proclaim forgiveness anyway! It is a scandal! Here is this MINISTER who is eating with this scoundrel of a sinning monster! Don’t I know who this person is and what they have done? It is a deep betrayal of justice. They are exactly right about most of these things, and that is the power of their outrage.
So they think I have taken sides against them. They think at best the wool has been pulled over my eyes. They think I am the stupidest and worst minister they have ever heard of. They are right, I probably am the worst. I really do eat with sinners. I accept sinners who have sinned AGAINST THEM. They are probably right to go around telling terrible stories about my hypocrisy and incompetence. However, they are wrong about one very important thing. I am not taking sides. Just because I am receiving this particular sinner they know about, doesn’t mean I am rejecting justice on their behalf. I’m not saying one person is a heinous sinner at deep fault and the other one is right. I am saying we all are sinners. We are all equally in need of the blood. We have all together transgressed justice.
We are all welcome to the Lord’s table to partake of the satisfaction of justice for which we all crave and for which we all tremble in fear. The thing that is at the root of their hatred and scandal is their unbelief in Christ. To them, simple belief is a deep threat and is the very seat of the ugliness of the world. However, as believers in Christ we do not come together in assembly just because we are supposed to. We come together because the blood of Jesus brings us together. It is our community. We are all partakers of the grand scandal of forgiveness in Christ. The outside outraged party is not ever going to find satisfaction or resolution until they come to the same table and eat the same bread and drink the same wine. We all come poor in spirit and we all are blessed through the simplicity of faith in Christ. He loves us completely, each and every one of us. Amen!