While We Were Still Sinners…

I’ve partnered with a great organization, People of the Second Chance, for the last few months. Their core values of radical acceptance and authentic love line up so well with those of the church I serve, that it was a no-brainer for me.

About a month ago, they began a campaign called “Never Beyond” that would be marked by a different poster each week depicting individuals, both real and fictional, that would challenge our thinking about how far we are willing to extend grace. Casey Anthony was the first week’s image, followed by Mike Tyson and even Darth Vader. It’s been challenging and inspiring to read the thoughts of those who wrestle with radical grace and what that really looks like. This week’s image, however, was the hardest to deal with so far.

Staring at an image so deeply rooted in hate and bigotry, I wasn’t sure how to respond. What should I say? I even had thoughts that maybe I would just pass this week by because it might cross a line for people reading this post. But then a thought gripped my mind that I couldn’t shake:

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5.8 (NLT)

Here’s the thing…

Even when I was at my greatest odds with God, doing my own thing with little thought for the people around me, Jesus chose to give up his life for me. Even for those who might say, “I didn’t ask anyone to die for me” or “I don’t even believe in God,” Jesus loved so much that he chose to give his life away. His was the ultimate expression of radical acceptance, authentic love and insane generosity…grace.

If God extends that kind of grace and love to me – and I know myself all too well to know that I don’t deserve it – then how can I possibly withhold that same kind of grace and love to anyone else, even to those who oppose everything I stand for? It’s in these moments that I realize what it means – what it really means – to extend radical acceptance. I’ve said before that if I hold back radical acceptance from anyone, then it is neither radical nor accepting. It becomes nothing more than judgment.

The image of a hooded figure, living a life based on hate an fear, hiding behind a mask, stirs up so many feelings in all of us. I can’t deny the challenge. I’m not even sure I would blame anyone for thinking that those represented in this image cross a line that is too hard to pursue.

But consider this: God crossed a major line to get to us so that He could extend what Louie Giglio called “astronomical grace,” an offer of love and redemption that knows no bounds. On what basis can we refuse the same to anyone else?

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