Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Choosing Grace

“He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” John 21:6

There is a question that gets tossed out every so often when one of us cooks the meal whether it’s a roll and sausage for breakfast or something that follows a recipe for dinner. “Does it taste grudged?” – as if the attitude behind the cooking somehow weeps into the meal itself. It is always said in jest because neither of us resents cooking something for the other. When neither of us feels like cooking there is a selection of take-away leaflets in the drawer.

After the big catch of fish, Peter jumping out of the boat to swim to Jesus on the shore but before the conversation of love, Jesus asks for some of the fish from the haul to all to the meal. There is already fish baking on the coals and plenty of bread but Jesus still asks for some of the fish.

Jesus had every justification to be miffed at Peter and the rest of the disciples. They had let him down badly. The last few days before the crucifixion had been one disappointment after another. They had fallen asleep when Jesus had asked them to pray with Him in Gethsemane. When he was arrested they had scattered in fright. Peter followed at a distance but later denied that he even knew Jesus. When it came to eh examination at the end of a three year course, they failed miserably.

Jesus on seeing his disciples with down-cast shoulders could have smirked a little – but He didn’t. He could have kept quiet – but he didn’t. He could have withheld the word that would have brought them abundance – but he didn’t. He could have dipped every word he spoke in “grudge” – but he didn’t. He wasn’t a less-happy-with-them Jesus. He wasn’t anything other than the Jesus they had followed for three years. He wasn’t a different Jesus – harsher somehow, frowning more than he used to, a Jesus without the usual smile. He was their Jesus.

And he asked for a fish to add to the ones he already had. He didn’t say, “It’s OK, I have it covered. I can make breakfast for you all by myself.” He didn’t ask the disciples as they ate breakfast whether it tasted grudged or not.

I know how I tend to treat people who have disappointed me. Mostly it’s the silent treatment, the withdrawal of fellowship at least for a while. There’s a lot of internal mumbling going on, a polishing up of resentments, the building of a wall, the constant replay of events with the assurance that I am in the right and they-deserve-every-bad-thing-that’s-coming-their-way attitude. I’m human.

The way that we deal with the people who disappoint us can sometimes be the way we think that God deals with us. It is because we are human that we mess up. We should mess up less as our friendship with God deepens – but messing up happens.

The way that Jesus dealt with his disciples that morning tells me so much about how God deals with me.  All the “could-haves” that Jesus could have done but didn’t do – God doesn’t do them either. There is no smirking at my failures. There’s no closing down of His word. No closing the door of the throne room. Just as Jesus called the men in the boat friends, God doesn’t cross me off the friends list. We never get to be defriended.

I suppose that any messing up we do makes it hard sometimes to come into God’s presence. We feel as Isaiah did when he found himself in God’s throne room:-

 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5

God’s grace is there for moments like that. Isaiah wasn’t kicked out of the throne room. He was cleansed and commissioned for a renewed calling.

Because I have been treated with such grace by God I am able to show that same grace to other. Maybe I don’t want to, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t. It is certainly not an easy thing to ask or do, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t.

Grace or grudge? We get to choose. Choose grace.

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