I shared my recent near-grifting last Sunday during our weekly teachers’ meeting. We marveled together at our capacity as human beings to lie so brazenly at times and how we could discern those who are truly in need. It is altogether too easy, in the name of being wise about sharing our resources, to close the door completely to anyone who asks for help.

The sanctuary in which we gather to worship together every Sunday afternoon opens almost directly onto a major street in town. When the doors are open, I can see the sidewalk and street from the pulpit. This past Sunday, while we were reciting Scripture together during our worship gathering, I could see a tall stranger, obviously in need, appear in the doorway. The first to speak with him was one of our Sunday school teachers. Because of that morning’s conversation about grifting, she told us that she was very cautious, and a little bit skeptical, in listening to this man’s story. A couple of minutes into the conversation, I saw this teacher leave in order to speak with my wife, who is also one of the pastors here at church. My wife greeted this man and spent several minutes in conversation with him as well.

Although he was looking for help, he did not ask for money. Rather, he asked my wife if the church could help him find some diapers for his two young children (seated in a car, visible, about ten yards away). My wife found one of our youth group students and the three of them walked across the street to buy diapers for his kids. While they were there, my wife purchased a large box of diapers and some juice for his kids. When this man asked how he could repay her, my wife simply told him, that when he was back on his feet, to share what he had with someone else in need.

As my wife listened to this man’s story, she asked him how he ended up coming to our church to ask for help. He told her that he had been to several other places that morning, including other religious communities, and had been rejected at every stop. He said he drove by our church and saw that our doors were open and thought, maybe, someone could help.

One of the things I admire most about my wife is her pure heart to love, serve and help those in need. To me, this story is a snapshot of what grace looks like. Sure, there’s always the chance that this man was running some strange hustle (I don’t know, re-selling these diapers on ebay or something) but grace always runs the risk of being misunderstood, abused or exploited.

Chuck Swindoll quotes Maryn Lloyd-Jones in The Grace Awakening:

If it is true that where sin abounded grace has much more abounded, well then, “shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound yet further?” First of all let me make a comment, to me a very important and vital comment. The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it… There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.

While the Lloyd-Jones quote above is referring specifically to God’s salvific grace extended to us through Christ, there is a similar principle at work in how we see and treat those around us.

I am not advocating recklessness in how we share with others. Generally, we do not give money to people on the street who might ask, preferring instead to buy food if they are hungry or, in this instance, some diapers for a family in need. However, there is always something risky about extending grace, unconditional love. In a world in which outreach feels like a timeshare sales pitch (Sure, it’s free… but first you have to sit through our 90 minute presentation) and “free” carwash fundraisers actually cost a five dollar minimum donation, grace is strange and unfamiliar.

Grace is stumbling across an open door. The grace Jesus extended to others, even those He knew full well would reject, swindle or otherwise disrespect Him, is hard to comprehend (some might even say amazing). Part of our dream for our community is that, when faced with the choice, we will risk grace. If our life is our mission and each one of us is part of the priesthood of all believers, then grace must be at the heart of it all.

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