Every January, I find myself looking for a plan to be “better” by the end of the year. I start by spending some time with God, seeking where He wants me to grow this year; in other words, where He is going to reveal truth for me to embrace and ultimately allow me more hope, more freedom, and less fear. This takes courage, as it is often an insight to some hard lessons I need to be prepared to walk through.
So this year, I am reading Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning that is highlighting what God has been saying to me for the past month as I prepare for 2015. I am sensing clearly His call for me this year is to embrace His grace to my core so that I in turn am able to extend that amazing grace to others. Oh boy. And as it so often happens, the Lord leads me to verses that echo this message He has laid on my heart. So today I find myself in Matthew 9:9-13.
The Calling of Matthew
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
What I heard loud and clear reading this verse again today is Jesus saying to me, I love you just as you are; the broken, sinful you is the you I want to be with. Don’t pretend to be something different. Be real with yourself this year. Embrace who you are; your strengths and your weaknesses. As Thomas Merton said, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”
Jesus practiced table fellowship and shows us that he overlooks our sins and pursues us, wanting to be in a relationship with all who seek him. He has chosen to have dinner with the known sinners in the community not the known religious leaders. Jesus is interested in real conversations, real life, real seeking. He is totally turned off by pompous, egoistical, self-righteous behavior that can subtly creep into my life every day. Manning puts it perfectly, “Our halo gets too tight and a carefully disguised attitude or moral superiority results. OR we are appalled by our inconsistency, devastated that we haven’t lived up to our lofty expectations of ourselves.” It is so easy to cast judgment against the Pharisees in this verse and yet if I am really honest, I can see myself in their actions, in their questions, in their attitudes. This is the year to change that.
What could this year look like if I simply accept the fact that I am accepted by God? If I embrace this truth from God at my core, then I have experienced grace. I can let go of the driving need to be better so God will accept me. That is not biblical and it is heartbreaking to God. He must think to himself:
Those poor people… how many times do I have to tell them I love them exactly the way they are? I wish they would just stop and spend time with me, rather than working so hard to do things they think will please me.
Manning states, “When we accept ourselves for what we are – we decrease our hunger for power or for acceptance by others, because our self-intimacy reinforces our inner sense of security.”
So what about you? Can you make the connection to accepting God’s grace and the powerful way you could impact those around you if you were showing up to work every day fully wrapped in that grace? If we all became people that accepted God’s grace our workplaces would be remarkably different, allowing our broken, sinful selves to reach out to our broken, sinful co-workers and extend the one thing we all desire – true grace.
Could extending grace change your workplace? Share your thoughts.
April Williams also blogs for the Center for Faith at Work, a group dedicated to inspiring, equipping and supporting people of faith so they are able to impact their workplaces for God’s Kingdom. Read more about the Center for Faith at Work here.