Last week our youth group, along with a couple of other churches, did some mission work in Detroit. We collaborated with a sister church to put on a bible program for children in the local neighborhood. The program consisted of lunch, field trips, games and a basic overview of the bible.
I think everyone on the team would have agreed that field trips were always the most challenging part of the day. These were children who didn’t go to museums with their families. Most of them had never been to any of the places we took them. As a result, they didn’t have a lot of social skills or know how when it came to being out in public. As was often the case, a student would say something incredibly inappropriate while we were out and about, prompting a sit down with leaders. The teens, being small group leaders, were given more authority than usual as we tried to stretch them in their discipleship skills. This meant that they had a say in what consequences should be given.
During one of these conversations, I sat in with a young man and his student leader. Sulking in his chair, head held low, he refused to admit to what more than one person heard him say. He was ashamed, embarrassed, and nervous about what would happen to him if he owned up to his short comings. When it came time to discuss consequences, I turned to the student leader and asked if they thought this young man should be allowed to come back to the program the next day.
The student’s answer was brilliant.
Taking a deep breath and uncrossing his arms, the teen said that the child should be allowed to come because “this is a church and it’s a place of grace and forgiveness.”
I was floored. First, to see a teenager understand the concept of grace and apply it to a real-life situation is the epitome of every youth pastor’s job description. Secondly, I suddenly remembered that I knew what it felt like to be that boy who was in trouble. I’ve been caught in my sin before, with nothing to offer. Ashamed and embarrassed. No excuses, no lie could hide it. Yet, Jesus offered me grace. He said I could come back the next day, because people like me belonged in His kingdom.
Ephesians 2 tells us that before we found God’s grace, we used to freely practice giving into sin without any thought to pleasing God. Although we now draw closer to the Lord daily in a process of sanctification, let us never forget where we started.
Romans 5 tells us that Christ died for us while we were still “enemies of God.” This was the starting point. The game changer was when Jesus decided to forgive anyway, taking us from enemy of God to a friend of God. We were forgiven by grace and therefore any progress we’ve made since then is only a result of grace.
At the adjournment of our discussion, I had the boy look me in the eye. Being reminded of God’s grace, I wanted him to know it’s full extent. I told him that when we left the room we were in, that was it. No longer would we bring up what happened, no longer would we hold it against him.
It was a picture of grace culminated and an echoing of God’s promise to remember our sins no more.
We can’t forget about grace. It’s the same grace my student showed the boy that day. It’s the same grace I need constant reminders of. God’s marvelous grace.