Herb Beyer

Rev. Herbert Beyer

There is right and wrong, either of which bring consequences – good or unpleasant.

But it has always intrigued me how imperfect people expect perfection from other imperfect people.

There is always at least one in the crowd who is quick to point the finger at the other person’s frailties and failings, someone who can easily and quickly enumerate your inadequacies, but so often fails to take account of their own. They see the speck in your eye, but fail when it comes to the log in their own.

I recall this one person who thought I should give folks “fire and brimstone” preaching or a spiritual two-by-four. I suppose the hope was that folks would get their act together because of a good slap down.

But I wonder, would that individual be willing to have it come her way (or his for that matter)? The fact is, I knew the person well enough to know her several issues that in fact have brought others significant misery.

Granted, correction and challenging attitudes and behaviors are necessary at times, because we should be rightly concerned about the health and well-being of a fellow believer’s relationship with God and others.

Unfortunately, it is sometimes done without the recognition that we are all a bit chipped, cracked and broken (in other words, suffering from our own sinfulness).

There are those who are content to give others “hell,” rather than doing a bit of their own personal reflection, repentance and making amends. Given the fact that lots of folks are regularly giving other folks “hell” on a daily basis, and doing it quite well, I believe it is our more joyful task to give folks a taste of heaven.

Instead of dicing people up into little pieces or hammering them, why not give them what Jesus does: love and grace?

Jesus enjoys table fellowship with sinners and tax collectors but gets hammered for it by religious leaders.

The tax collector was hated because he lined his pocket at the expense of others and collaborated with occupying Romans. But Jesus calls a tax collector Levi to leave behind his old life for a new way of living as a disciple.

He heals lepers and speaks with a Samaritan woman.

To these and others, Jesus is founding giving love and grace.

After the death and resurrection of Jesus, we find an account of Peter in John’s gospel account, going back to his old livelihood of fishing.

This is Peter, known as the Rock, who became like sandstone after the arrest of Jesus, who denied knowing Jesus.

The resurrected Jesus finds him, and in spite of those failures, would have Peter follow Him once again.

Jesus repeatedly asks the question: “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” Peter gives his yes, and says to him, “Lord you know everything; you know that I love You.”

Yes, Jesus knows everything, his past, his frailties and failings, his sins. Jesus knows Peter’s heart. Jesus knows his remorse and sorrow and his shame.

But Jesus meets Peter’s brokenness, his pain, the sorrow of his heart, his sin – not with a hammer, but with love and grace. I know you love me, so go now and feed my lambs and tend my sheep. And Peter does.

You remember the story of the Good Samaritan told by Jesus. There are two religious types who go out of their way to avoid getting involved or helping a fellow Jew who has been robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. They don’t want to end up in the same condition.

But then, the most unexpected person, a Samaritan, stops. And the reason this comes as surprise is because of the animosity between Jews and Samaritans.

But risking wallet and life, the Samaritan binds up the man’s wounds and brings him to a place where he can recover. The Samaritan promises to pay for any other expenses if necessary. When something comes up, a problem to be addressed or someone in need, it would be convenient to say, “It’s someone else’s responsibility, someone else’s problem” or “someone else will take care of it.” But the story reveals that we are that someone else. You stop, risk the wallet and life, help and render assistance. You give them love and grace.

There are those who feel so beaten down, ashamed, guilty, burdened by their past and their sin. They wonder if forgiveness is possible. Could God, or you, love them, in spite of?

And that is the challenge and the call – to love them, pray for them, forgive them, encourage them and care for them. Feed my lambs, tend my sheep. Give them love and grace, even when you’re tired, when it’s inconvenient, when you already have lots on your plate (and most everybody does, but sorry, no excuse), even when he or she is a thorn in your flesh, even though they, like you, are chipped, cracked, broken – a sinner.

Our salvation isn’t dependent upon how good we are. Our salvation is dependent on the cross, on how far God goes for us, on how good God is on love and grace.

The Rev. Herb Beyer is pastor of Tri-County Cooperative Ministries, ELCA.

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