Walker Percy is quoted as saying… “We love those who know the worst of us and don’t turn their faces away.”
Isn’t that a beautiful description of who God is and how he views us. Time and time again we read in scripture how God knows us:
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. “(Isa 43:1)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:5)
I am reminded of the story we read a few weeks ago in our worship service when Jesus was surrounded by a large crowd and looked up and calls Zacchaeus by name (Luke 19:5b). When everyone else had turned their faces away from Zacchaeus Jesus looks directly at him. The thing I love about this story is that Jesus is not shocked by who Zacchaeus is and what he has done in the past but invites himself over for dinner to eat with a sinner.
The irony is the name Zacchaeus means “pure one” and as we all know Zacchaeus was anything but pure. And yet, Jesus in his mercy calls him by name essentially saying, “Pure one, I am coming to your house.” Jesus was not affirming what he had done or who he was but what he saw in him. This gives me great hope that Jesus has not looked away because of my sins but has said to me “I’m coming to your home to eat with you.”
The theological significance of eating at the same table indicates association. This is why the Pharisees had such a hard time when Jesus ate with tax-collectors and prostitutes. Again, Jesus does not look at who they are but looks at what’s in them. This is the grace of God. Grace turns everything upside down. This is why Jesus is able to eat with the people that he did, hang out with the poor, touch the lepers, heal the sick, deliver the possessed, call fishermen to be the future leaders of the church. “Jesus knows the worst of us and doesn’t turn his face away.”
Now, Percy’s quote should also be a description of the church and how the church treats others. If Jesus does not look away why should we look away? If grace turns everything upside down it is God’s grace and his love that allows us to see the worst in others and not turn our faces away. We must come alongside, proclaiming and demonstrating the transforming grace of God.
In a time when our culture and country seems so polarized with hurt and fear,developing an ethics of grace seems to be not only the right thing to do… but the only thing we can do! We have not only done the opposite of Percy’s quote by turning our faces away from others, but we have turned our backs as well.
As we move forward in ministry, allow me to ask you a simple question: How will YOU reflect God’s welcome; in the way you welcome others?