Dr. Carol Bechtel, a professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary, wrote a book entitled Life After Grace. In one chapter, she describes an episode from the TV series “Antiques Roadshow.” A young couple stands fidgeting as they await the verdict from the antiques dealer. He is about to tell them how much Great-Aunt Gertie’s cherished dresser is worth.
“I would say around $500,” the dealer says. The couple is clearly disappointed. A new one would cost $500, and this one is a century old. Then, almost as an afterthought, the dealer adds, “Of course, it would be worth 10 times that if you hadn’t refinished it.”
That seems to be a parable about the Christian life. Our value to God, and to one another, is not in our perfection, but in our scars, our wounds, our struggles, our brokenness. Furniture without nicks might be brand new, but only time will tell if it is functional, sturdy, comfortable. Furniture that doesn’t show wear and tear has not yet served the purpose for which it was designed.
I have said this to you before, but:
We all think forgiveness is great … until we have someone to forgive.
We know Jesus is right about us loving our enemies … until we have an enemy to love.
We all endorse the scripture about turning the other cheek … until someone comes along and smacks us a good one.
The trouble is grace is still just a theory that we seem to have left behind in the waters of baptism. However:
The only people capable of forgiving are those who have needed and known great forgiveness.
The only person who really can love their enemy is the person who has been an enemy to someone.
The only person capable of turning the other cheek is the person who has, at some time, struck out at another person.
According to Jesus, slapped Christians absorb the blow, and the brokenness behind it. Not as a victim allowing himself to be beaten up, but the Christian takes responsibility for the outcome, knowing the stronger person chooses grace rather than escalating conflict.
Now, of course, I am not talking about a person in an abusive relationship. That is different, but, even then, the strong person walks away praying for the abuser because she knows that, although her wounds will heal, without grace, the abuser always will remain haunted by rage and guilt.
We who have known grace must be the channels of God’s grace in this world.
Rev. Michael Piazza