Thursday, March 14, 2013

Would you give the coke another chance?

Years ago when I was flying domestically in the US, it was cold and dry on the flight. I wrapped myself in the blanket while sipping a nice cup of iced coke. It felt great until I accidentally spilled the coke all over the blanket. A flight attendant in her 40s walked by, she looked at me, and didn't seem to be too delighted.

I looked at the flight attendant with puppy eyes, and felt embarrassed by the mess I made - a grownup who couldn't handle a cup well. I expected her to roll her eyes at me, but while handing her over the wet blanket, the first thing she said to me was, "Would you give the coke another chance?"

"Would you give the coke another chance?" What a simple and lovely way to comfort and restore someone who felt guilty and embarrassed! Later, the flight attendant returned with a new blanket and another can of coke. I felt so warm and grateful inside, and this time I made sure that I hold my drink well so that I wouldn’t spill it again. It is the impact of receiving grace that it gave me the willingness to do better.

One Sunday, we had a great discussion on grace in our Youth Sunday School (we are very blessed to have all these young theologians in our Youth Sunday School).When asked, should we the New Covenant people observe the Law and practice sacrifice? One conclusion that we came to is – if we do, it’s as if we are telling God His grace is not enough for us, and Christ’s crucifixion is not enough to atone for our sins.

Of course, we don’t reject God’s grace purposely. But there are times we feel unworthy of God’s grace, and that we need to be good to receive God’s grace. But what do we need God’s grace for if we are already good and perfect? We won’t be able to experience God’s grace if we can’t be honest – very honest with ourselves to see the iniquities and inadequacies that are hiding behind our moral appearances.

We’ll see how much we fell short of God’s grace by just asking ourselves – “What’s keeping us from being like Christ?” Is that our inability to truly love our neighbors and showing grace to our enemies? Is that our pride? Is that our addictions?

When we are able to see ourselves as who we really are, can we let God love us in our darkness and weakness? Can you receive God’s grace without project Him as a mad parent who’s here to scold and punish? Would you let Him walk with you through your struggles? Would you rely on His Spirit to work in your heart with you?

We would never know how to forgive ourselves if we don’t even know what are to forgive, and we wouldn’t be able to truly forgive ourselves if we couldn’t receive God’s grace. And it is only after receiving God’s grace we’ll see how much our brothers, sisters, neighbors and enemies need our grace. It is only after we see how much this world needs grace we’ll be able to sit with the broken people, and just simply listen to them and feel what they feel without prejudice. Grace – it heals the broken hearts, restores our image as that of God, and it gives us the willingness to fight, to press on, and to be at our best.

Yes, you may say, “what about God’s justice and tough love?” Well, first, it’s simply not my point here; and second, didn’t Jesus teach us to “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”? (Matthew 7:5) We are responsible for reminding our brothers and sisters of God’s righteousness, but it is not our responsibility to change or cure anyone. We are to lead people to God, but we are not to judge. Most importantly, we need to be at God's presence ourselves.

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