by Jonathan Daugherty
Humility is essential to mature in wisdom and compassion. Pride ever blocks us from becoming agents of grace to lost and broken friends and neighbors.
I watched a movie lately that struck a cord deep inside me, one that hadn't been moved in quite some time. This movie dealt with issues of racism, death, selfishness, hate, and even grace. I didn't expect the core of my being to be rattled by a mere movie. After all, aren't movies simply for entertainment? Apparently not all movies. At least not The Grace Card.
The story follows the lives of two cops, Mac, who is a white racist, still bitter over the tragic death of his son 17 years earlier, and Sam, a black part-time preacher hoping to soon hang up the badge for his "true" calling, full-time ministry in the pulpit. They unexpectedly get thrust together as partners while Sam awaits a transfer due to a promotion on the force. Neither are thrilled with the arrangement. But both are right where God wants them, the place where grace most often thrives: suffering.
Mac's racism challenges everything Sam preaches about on Sunday but struggles to live out the rest of the week. How can God expect Sam to love someone who is so deliberately unlovable? As the story unfolds, there are multiple opportunities for Sam to extend grace and for Mac to receive it. But just as is true in real life, not all those opportunities end well. In fact, at one point they both just throw up their hands in frustration, neither wanting to give or receive anything good in the partnership. Often the effects of grace are not immediate.
Without spoiling the movie, I will say that grace ultimately wins in a profound way, a way that struck that cord deep in my soul. It wasn't so much that grace "won" as it was in how that victory came about, as if the avenue of grace was even more important than it's ultimate effect. Grace won because it was given away.
I cannot count the number of ways in which God's grace has blessed my life. I've tried. But His grace is simply too vast, too rich, too perpetual. Wave upon wave wash over my life and I am literally consumed by the beauty and kindness of God's grace. But, unfortunately, I probably could count the number of ways I have given grace. It's difficult and unnatural to love the unlovable or be kind to hateful souls. But loving the lovable isn't grace, it's just natural and expected (and easy). God wants to draw us out of the shadows of what is comfortable and natural, to be His agents of grace to people unlike us, who don't care for us, who might even hate us. Those are the souls He wants us partnered with, divine appointments of suffering that demand grace be given.
I needed that cord in my soul struck. It had been too long since it vibrated, reminding me that a quest for comfort is not the way of grace. Jesus never alienated himself from suffering, from humanity, from the broken or angry or bitter. He knew better than any of us that grace is meant to live in such connections, to be given most freely to the most undeserving, even those who spit in our face and utterly reject such kindness. I pray my soul never stops resonating with this simple truth: it's better to give grace than to receive it.
I promise to pray for you every day, ask your forgiveness, grant you the same,
& be your friend always.