The theologian Helmut Thielicke is quoted in Philip Yancey’s book, What’s So Amazing about Grace?
Jesus gained the power to love harlots, bullies, and ruffians … he was
Able to do this only because he saw through the filth and crust of
degeneration, because his eye caught the divine original which is
hidden in every way – in every man! …First and foremost he gives us
When Jesus loves a guilt-laden person and helped him, he saw in
him an erring child of God. He saw in him a human being whom his Father
loved and grieved over because he was going wrong. He saw him as God
originally designed and meant him to be, and therefore he saw through the
surface layer of grime and dirt to the real mean underneath. Jesus did not
identify the person with his sin, but rather saw in this sin something alien,
something that really did not belong to him, something that merely chained
and mastered him and from which he would free him and bring him back to
his real self. Jesus was able to love men because he loved them right
through the layer of mud.
We cannot get through “the layer of mud.” All we see and/or remember is “the layer of mud.” When the individual is a child there is forgiveness and understanding, but when the child grows up we expect something different in their behavior and when it isn’t forth coming forgiveness is withheld – the mud just keeps getting in the way. Unfortunately this is magnified a hundredfold when the individual is identified as a part of our family. Much like the child that dives into a huge pile of horse manure with the declaration, “With this much s..t there has got be a horse in here someplace!” And so, God dives into the mud and muck of our lives and states, “With this much s..t there has got to be a person in here someplace!” and, the best part, is that he doesn’t stop looking until he finds the person he created. Yeah, God!
The unique power of Grace – God’s grace – is the power to forgive and to love the person, mud and all. Carlo Garretto writes in The God Who Comes, “Only the love He diffuses in me, through the grace given by Christ, can enable me to see ‘things of above’.” Because of Grace Jesus saw and loves the harlot, bully, ruffian – he loves in spite of the mud … regardless of the act … apart from the behavior … Grace enables love to be expressed as only God can give it expression. Yeah, God! Yeah, Grace! Without this divine grace we would be unable to love because our eyes would be anchored to seeing only the earthly person and action, but by being freed to see “things of above” we are released to see and receive others as they were originally created to be – whole, unblemished, clean, untarnished … “layer of mud” free.
G.W. Knight illustrates it this way: When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day's pay for his time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for his performance, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for his long service or high achievements, that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award--yet receives such a gift anyway--that is a good picture of God's unmerited favor. This is what we mean when we talk about the grace of God.
Gracious God, help me to see others as you see them and then empower me to love them as you love them, mud and all. Amen.
Quote for today: “God's mercy ... goes before the unwilling to make him willing; it follows the willing to make his will effectual.” Augustine of Hippo