The gospel holds before us quite a contrast. On the one hand we have individuals giving to the temple out of their wealth and on the other we have the poor widow who gives out of her poverty. Although I have heard this used as a stewardship sermon, the point is much bigger than money. The issue is about having a heart that always gives out of our paucity.
What does that look like? It is the stutterer who is willing to stand up and read the scriptures. It’s about the tone-deaf person who will raise their voice in songs of praise. It is the individual who has never done well in school inviting folks over for a bible study. It’s about the once homeless woman who has been invisible now greeting visitors in church. It is about a heart that offers not only our strengths but especially where we are seemingly lacking. It’s about a willingness to even offer our woundedness and baggage. We need to remember that the marks of the nails and spear remained with Jesus even after his resurrection, wounds offered for us.
Such a decision to offer our weaknesses is not just an anxious place, but terrifying. And yet, I want to push this even farther, to a place I’ll call “unreasonable” grace to others. We can often muster being gracious to family, friends, those we like. Ironically we are pretty good at being gracious to those we believe have “earned” it. But will we offer grace to those we don’t like, those who have thwarted our plans, those who refuse to do what we want or what we think they should do?
This is the same “unreasonable” grace we have been shown by the Lord. The grace that saved us from our sin is covering our sin. Daily. We stumble and fall, continually, yet His call to us is “come to me all who are heavy laden.” And He invites us to do unto others as He has done for us. “Unreasonable” grace!
It’s not just the action, however. It is the state of heart underlying the action. A heart which trusts infinitely in the absolute sufficiency of God. A heart that desires to engage in unreasonable grace in response to unreasonable grace.
So how do we know such grace is needed in our response to another? It is needed anytime we experience anxiety, anger, annoyance, frustration, enmity, peevishness. Anytime we feel put upon, used, ignored, hassled, unloved, unappreciated. In short, anytime we collide with others in this world and “our” initial reflex is to respond in the ways of the world, that is the time for “unreasonable” grace.
But we can only manifest that grace by immediately placing ourselves before the Lord with our desire to be gracious. This does not come from our own ability, our own holiness, our own goodness, even our own kindness. This is truly giving out of our poverty trusting in God’s abundance, just like the widow and her mite.
St. Francis has nailed it in his (and hopefully ours) request to God.
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
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