If we follow Jesus Christ, what guides our decision-making? How do we decide what classes to take, what job to apply for, whom to hang out with and whom to exclude? The answer, I think, is found in the word grace.
We see in John 4:1–42 a clear glimpse of how Jesus made decisions. In the story, a Samaritan woman came to draw water from a well. She came alone, without friends, probably because she had a questionable past. She had been intimate with several different men, and her past marriage breakups made her an outcast. Although her life had been seriously messed up, she was also a broken soul, tired of carrying around the baggage of her past. In many ways, she was not unlike most of us. We bear life’s battle scars, and some run deeper than others. The way people treated the woman was a constant reminder of her past mistakes, and she probably felt worthless.
But Jesus has a way with people; nothing—certainly not past mistakes—persuades him to stop loving them. He sees right through the exterior of a person and directly into the heart. He sees into that secret place where many of us hold our fears, shame, insecurities, and past failures. He accepted the woman of Samaria for who she was, knowing that she had a messy past. He ignored the social stigma that kept Jews and Samaritans apart. He was an unapologetic radical who walked all over the social norms of his day. In short, people meant more to him than the rules or customs of his culture.
Basically, Jesus said to the woman, “I came to die for you in the same way I came to die for people who seem to live perfect lives.” He offered her eternal life, free of feelings of worthlessness. The beauty of grace is receiving love and acceptance when we have done nothing to earn or deserve them. Jesus did not tell the woman that her lifestyle was acceptable, but he certainly did not write her off as an outcast. He loved the sinner without blindly approving the sin. Moreover, he would not allow heartless societal rules to tell him which people he would love and accept.
Jesus whispers to us in the silence of our darkest hour, saying, “I am your truest friend. I was there when you were born; I know everything about you; and I love you. Nothing you do can earn my love, and nothing will stop me from loving you.”
When Jesus calls us to follow, he asks us to live by grace and to love others no matter how different they are from us and no matter how much we disagree with their decisions. Loving people is a choice. God does not expect perfection. Rather, we are called to love God with all our heart and to love one another as we love ourselves. The next time you see someone who is different or a person society is willing to discard, remember that you have a choice to live by grace or to live the empty life of judgment. Choose grace. Choose life. Follow Jesus.
Make a list of choices, big and small, that you will make in the next week or two. Think about how grace informs each choice. What does following Jesus mean for the decisions you will make?
—from devozine (March/April 2016). Copyright © 2016 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.