By Serena Woods
I used to envy the religious elite. The spiritual pedigree of children who grew up to become Christian adults and preachers under the wings of cookie-baking Sunday School teachers and shiny-toed pastors. They had the glory of the church life crowning their heads from the moment of conception. They were bred to be believers. They held the corners of religion up on their generational shoulders. I wanted their childhood; I wanted their life.
I grew up on the streets as an outsider to the church culture. A vagrant surviving on the defiant spit of the stubborn will to live.
When I became a Christian at 19, I was still an outsider in a world of insiders. They were all being groomed at Christian universities, and I was a single mom running from myself and raising a baby on grace. When my Self caught up to me and my moral sheen got scratched beyond recognition in the hellish tumble of sin, I was booted out of the meeting places.
When I was out on my own with grit in my teeth and dried blood in my hair, I watched them all walk out on the Truth. They formed picket lines and petitioned for my death. Whispers of gossip and rocks of condemnation were hurled at my head, and I searched for a place to find a shield of safety. When they walked out on the Truth, they left the door wide open, and I crawled back in to find sanctuary, salvation and healing.
Like me, people all over the world are meeting together in the house of Truth and Grace. Those of us who thought we were alone, are worshiping together under the very light we were told was nowhere near us.
A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God! -Romans 10:15
We’re sobbing and singing, “I praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!”
But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act.
They murmur among themselves. The judgmental outsiders to the Truth. The rejecters of Grace. We’re dancing in our salvation, but does anyone care?
Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?
The grace that we cling to, the truth that sets us free has been preached across every sea. Preached by the very mouths who want to keep it from us.
So the big question is, Why…?
Moses had it right when he predicted, “When you see God reach out to those you consider your inferiors-outsiders!-you’ll become insanely jealous. When you see God reach out to people you think are religiously stupid, you’ll throw temper tantrums.”
God knows what is happening, and He sees His oldest children giving His plan of redemption the cold shoulder. Isaiah knew it (Isaiah 65:2), Elijah agonized over it (1 Kings 19:10). God’s children, the one’s He’s had in His pews since birth are out seeking their own interests. They’re trying to maintain their standing in Heaven on their own. This is the Christian sub-culture today. This is what the world sees and wants no part of. This current dilemma has been played over and over like a broken record of scriptures throughout history. Moses, Elijah and Isaiah all predicted it and it is happening. The religious insiders, the Christian elite, continue to become thick-skinned toward God.
Fed up with their quarrelsome, self-centered ways, God blurred their eyes and dulled their ears. Shut them in on themselves in a hall of mirrors, and they’re there to this day.
-Romans 11:8; (Isaiah 29:10)
David was upset about the same thing: I hope they get sick eating self-serving meals, break a leg walking their self-serving ways. I hope they go blind staring in their mirrors, get ulcers from playing at god.
-Romans 11:9; (Psalm 69:22)
It is all part of the Great Scheme of God. The “pruning” and “grafting” of branches. This is God’s plan. The walking out, the blinded eyes. Yet, you may ask, “What good could possibly come from Christians tyrannizing their fallen?”
I want to lay all this out on the table as clearly as I can, friends. This is complicated. It would be easy to misinterpret what’s going on and arrogantly assume that you’re royalty and they’re just rabble, out on their ears for good. But that’s not it at all. This hardness on the part of insider… toward God is temporary. Its effect is to open things up to all the outsiders so that we end up with a full house.
In our finite minds, we can only see that we are embracing God’s message of the Gospel of Grace and the others, those who are hurting and doubting us, are God’s enemies. Enemies to Grace.
But looked at it from the long-range perspective of God’s overall purpose, they remain God’s oldest friends. God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty-never canceled, never rescinded.
They’ll be back! They walked out because that’s what humans do, but God will bring them back. What’s more, when they walked out on the Truth and rejected Grace to the fallen, they left the door wide open! Because the door is wide open for you, for me, it’s open for them, too. He is using their hard hearts to let you in!
In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in.
We know that we all have sinned and are all “falling short” (Rom. 3:23), we also know that God is sovereign, but to put the two together is not something I’ve heard taught. Over seven different translations of Romans 11:32 read that God “consigned”, “penned up”, “bound”, “shut up”, “imprisoned”, “concluded”, “committed” all to sin, and the reason is the same in every translation. It’s so that He can have mercy on us. He levels us, he makes us all equals. All sinners in need of His mercy and grace. An entire human race in need of His Son. This is how He gets a full house! This was His plan all along.
Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.
Soon enough, we’ll all be back together and worshipping God and praising Jesus, the One who raised us all from the dead.
Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him; Everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes.
Read Romans (the last half of) 10 and 11, (I used The Message when I wrote this). The entire first part of this article is a direct parallel to Romans 10, but I didn’t list the scriptures. There is Earth s
hattering truth to be found here. God is sovereign (the decision maker, the one in control) and until we get that, we get nothing. Find hope in the Truth. Find the kind of hope that gives you patience and empathy to those who belittle God’s grace in you and condemn you. They’re part of the Great Scheme of God, and they’ll be worshipping beside you one day with the thankful heart of a sinner saved by grace.
Serena lives in Springfield, Missouri. She is a wife to Justin, a mom to to Natalie, Kinsey, Livia and Stella and a Small Group Leader at New Life Church in Springfield. She wrote a book titled Grace is For Sinners and keeps a blog at www.graceisforsinners.com.