Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash
It looks like I’m only writing for Fellowship Friday 8 today. So I won’t be limited by the clock…like I ever am! I just let you know when my five minutes is up…and keep right on going!
I always love when I’ve been involved at church, whether in a small group, Sunday School, a sermon series or a series in my devotions…whatever is going on, no matter what sections of the Bible they are related to…I find them tending to dovetail. Sometimes each week there will be topics from each segment that will underline what one of the other groups is studying…or expand on it. Or I will get so blasted with an application that I can NOT run from it because each one of the areas points to the same thing!
This week, that has been especially true! Our pastor started a series on the parables 2 Sundays ago and the first actual parable was covered last Sunday (2/2/14). It clobbered me…and many I know, in ways we didn’t expect.
I’ll share a bit with you, but you will really want to click the link I give you later (then click on the sermon of the date above) to hear the sermon. (If you don’t know much about parables and how to understand them, the first week of the series will be very helpful.) It will give you insight into why the religious leaders of Jesus’ day hated Him so much that they wanted to kill Him…big time!
Here is the parable
The parable we looked at was this one found in Matthew 20:1-16 about the laborers in the vineyard. When you stop and think about it, the workers at the end of the day received grace. The workers who were there all day received what they agreed to…a fair day’s wage. But when they saw the others receive a fair day’s wage after working 1/2 day or less, they figured they would be paid more…and that’s where they became angry.
It turns out they didn’t really believe in grace after all…since they worked all day long through the heat of the day. They didn’t like grace at all!
I was beginning to get the point of the parable as Jean Larroux(our pastor) was speaking. But then he started meddling. He brought up Jeffery Dahmer. Do you remember that serial killer from the early ’90’s? He killed 17 men and boys between 1978 (shortly after his high school graduation) and 1991, in particularly gruesome, gory ways. Then he cut them up and saved some body parts and put others in acid to destroy evidence. There was nothing about him or his crimes that made him one you would look at and say, “He is redeemable. He is one I want to see come to Christ.” In fact, the thought of him being a neighbor in heaven? Not really appealing.
However, not long after he was put in prison, he appears to have become a genuine believer who actually felt he deserved the death penalty for what he had done. I don’t think it was available in WI at that time. In 1994, he was murdered in prison by another inmate…and welcomed joyfully into the arms of Jesus!
Aren’t there times when you honestly have to say you hate grace?
When Jean added that last part, I felt like someone had hit me in the head with a hammer! What? Jeffrey Dahmer? Yes, Jeffry was like one of the workers who came in late in the day, but he still is one of GOD’s now.
Do we love grace, the grace of GOD that reaches out to undeserving sinners? We say we do…until we get an illustration like this! Then it is more difficult. In these cases, we rarely see ourselves as those undeserving of GOD’s grace and mercy…just like Jeffrey Dahmer.
We somehow see ourselves as personally divorced from being in the same category as a Dahmer or Hitler
What we don’t realize is that WE are sinners just as needy of salvation as Jeffrey Dahmer. Looking from the outside, it doesn’t seem like it, but it is true! We haven’t actually murdered people or done some the the actual crimes he did, but we have often killed reputations with our words and with our anger and unforgiveness, committed murder in or hearts or acted out sexual perversions in our minds. Jesus said it was the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.
Just imagine hearing this parable from Jesus if you thought you kept all the rules? …If you didn’t?
Imagine how you would have hated hearing that if you were like the Pharisees and had been pure in doctrine and had kept the law down to the very fine points? The words livid, fury, hatred and angry come immediately to mind! And if you are one of those people who is working your tail off for Jesus now? You came onto the field early in the day…you’ve been working hard ALL.DAY.LONG. And the boss pays you the same amount of money as those who came and worked 3 hours?!!
They get the gift of grace for eternity too? Their sins are forgiven too? They have no penance? They don’t have to grovel for the first 2000 years in heaven? or live in heaven’s version of low cost housing?
NO. We will all be equal in heaven…sinners saved by grace…and we’ll know it was fair! Why? Because we will be standing in the presence of GOD…the righteous Judge. The ONE who is totally holy without a spot or blame. And we will know that we all stand guilty as charged before Him. Not one of us is righteous. We are all guilty.
But for those of us who have received the gift of grace, Jesus will stand before the Father and say, “These are mine. You see these that are dressed in my righteousness that was paid for on the cross? They truly aren’t good enough for heaven. They need ME. These are mine. These are our people. They were bought with blood.”
To us He will say, “Welcome home!”
And for the first time, we will be home in ways we never were before…ever!