I saw him. A slender, young man with his head hung low. He shuffled at a slow speed across the downtown parking lot. Everything about his demeanor told me he felt beaten and battered by the world around him.
I approached him to pray.
I wasn’t sure why the anguish, but I wanted to encourage him. To give him a reason to look up, I walked towards him. He slowly lifted his head and I said “Hello!” We conversed over this and that for a bit, then I asked if I could pray for him. It was then that his whole demeanor changed. He bowed his head and forcibly said, “I’m unworthy of your prayer.” I thought that was nonsense so I pressed further as he replied,
“Miss, please don’t waste your prayer on me. I’m unworthy and you don’t even know the unimaginable things I’ve done in my life. I’m unfit to be lifted before the Lord,” he said as he bowed down on one knee.
I assured him it didn’t matter what he had done, that Jesus loved him. I reminded him that we all had things we were not proud of and Jesus takes those all away when we believe in Him. I asked him if he knew Jesus. Then I continued on saying all the right “Christian” things as the man wept. As began wiping tears from his eyes then walked off with his head bent in shame murmuring “You just don’t know the horrible things I’ve done.”
Praying with a pedophile.
I walked away from our encounter sad. My mind wondered what could have been so horrible that he didn’t feel his prayers were worthy enough to lift up to heaven. Was he a murderer? What had he done? All I knew is that the Lord forgives. My heart drooped at the heaviness he was carrying from the weight of his past.
Standing there trying to comprehend what had just happened, a security man walked up. He wanted to know if I knew that man and sent me on with a strong warning, “That man is a convicted pedophile. He preys on the children here on the streets.”
My stomach turned with nausea. My heart beat quickened. Righteous anger stirred within. I wondered why I had told him it didn’t matter what he had done, because all of the sudden, it felt like it did.
When your truths are rocked.
I was numb. The truth I had spoke to this man came back to me in full vision and I questioned. “Lord, he has hurt your precious ones, children, in the most unspeakable of ways. Can you forgive him because I’m pretty sure I can’t?”
No sooner had the crazy thoughts began to swarm through my mind than the tears began to fall. I had to reckon within my own soul if Jesus words were truth. Could he really forgive ALL? It was an ugly battle raging in my soul. One I didn’t want to have.
Why all the sudden did I think Jesus’ grace needed boundaries? Why did I think this pedophile needed justification? Why would I rather have prayed with a murderer than this man? My soul was in torment for days. I had spent years fighting off being judgmental and here in a split second I was playing judge of all.
Jesus came for the sick.
I was sick in heart and spirit. The encounter had left me wrestling through the messy of what it really means to live like Jesus. Jesus doesn’t give any of us prerequisites to receive His grace. He just says, “Come!” But there I stood with my righteous anger trying to figure out why everyone should have access to Jesus — even this man. My own thoughts made me sick.
When the Pharisees saw Jesus keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?” Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” Matt. 9:11-13 MSG
Why do we in our human minds try to determine what is sick and healthy? Why do we boast we have it all figured out? This messy world is not colored with easy black and white answers. It’s more like 50 shades of grace! [tweet that]
And besides, aren’t we all sick?
My thoughts were definitely sickening that day. And the truth is I have things in my past that would probably nauseate you. And you probably have troubles of your own that cause you to feel unworthy of prayer or Jesus’ grace! And that’s why we are all here in need of a Savior that is bigger than our past. A Savior that doesn’t draw the line right before a pedophile and say “Everyone’s welcome, but you!” I’m so thankful for a Savior that won’t change his mind and decide I’m outside of his grace too.
Lord, forgive me for wanting to ration out your grace and to decide who is worthy and who is not. Lord, thank you that your love extends to everyone and that you don’t single out one sin as bigger than any other. Lord, thank you for being the loving friend and Savior that you are!
QUESTION: When was the last time you wrestled through your beliefs and the truth of how boundless the grace of Jesus truly is?