Grace for your heroes

Who is your hero? Don’t think about it too long. Who’s the first person that comes to mind? A teacher? A mentor? A parent or grandparent? We all have heroes. Some are older than us. Some are even younger than us. Others are our same age. And even though we know they are “only human” we still elevate them because to us, they’re larger than life. It’s not that we put them on a pedestal (though some of us do), it’s just that we have such high expectations for them.

So what happens when your hero falls? What happens when your hero makes a judgment call that hurts someone else? What happens when your hero sins?

Does it shake your world? Does it rock your faith? Or do you deny it and stand with them regardless of the truth? You know what I’m talking about. You exclaim that the stories can’t be true. You insist that your hero can’t have done anything wrong. How could they? They’re heroes. They know better. They know people are looking up to them, following them. They wouldn’t have made such a horrible choice. They couldn’t have.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but everyone fails. Even your heroes.

8ZB9C03AIJToday’s verses are Romans 3:10-20.

As the Scriptures say,
“No one is righteous—
not even one.
No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.
All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good,
not a single one.
Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
Their tongues are filled with lies.
Snake venom drips from their lips.
Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
They rush to commit murder.
Destruction and misery always follow them.
They don’t know where to find peace.
They have no fear of God at all.”
Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

The truth about following Christ is that everyone needs grace, from the worst of us to the best of us. No one is perfect. We know that, but knowing it and living it are two separate things.

It’s really, really easy to fixate on the “good” Christians, the ones who know the Bible, the ones who talk to God, the ones who have the answers. They’re the people we go to when we have questions. They’re the ones we ask when we’re afraid or uncertain or when our faith is faltering. And in our minds we think there’s absolutely no way that they would ever turn against God. They would never disobey. They would never do anything God says is wrong.

No one is righteous means that no one always does the right thing. Does that mean you shouldn’t trust anyone? Does that mean you shouldn’t build relationships with people? No, that’s not what it means at all.

It means that even your heroes need grace. They need the same grace from you that Christ offered to them.

Not excuses. Grace has nothing to do with making excuses. Grace doesn’t live in denial either. Grace recognizes that you’ve screwed up royally yet doesn’t hold it against you.

It’s good to have heroes. It’s good to have people in your life to run to when you’re scared or feeling vulnerable. Just remember that people are people. Don’t put your trust in people. Don’t build your foundation on any person other than Jesus Christ. Because He is the righteous one, and He doesn’t change.

People are like icebergs

Imagine yourself in a small group. Doesn’t have to be church related. Maybe it’s a social club or a work event, and the goal at your table or in your particular circle of chairs is to get to know each other better. What three questions do people ask most frequently? In my experience, it’s name, occupation, and favorite movie. Or maybe favorite dessert (right, Tour Guides?).

Sure, it’s a great ice breaker. Yeah, it’s an easy, non-threatening way to get people talking. But come on. Can you really get to know someone better from those three things?

Names are always fascinating, but in today’s society, a name doesn’t mean the same thing it used to. And a job? Sure, jobs can tell you a lot about somebody, but a job is usually just a title. I’ve learned is that a job title is always only the top layer of someone.

And movies? Maybe in some cases you can learn a lot about someone from the movies they watch, but you can’t learn where a person is at in their lives simply because they enjoy a certain movie.

It’s tempting, though. It’s easy to put people in boxes because they’re easier to control there. In our own minds, if we label and organize people according our assumptions about them, they aren’t threatening anymore. Maybe I do that because I’m an insecure introvert, or maybe it’s more widespread than that.

Whether everyone does it or it’s just me, it’s not a good idea. People are like icebergs, and the real person underneath extends much father below the surface than you can see at a glance.

IcebergToday’s verse is 1 Samuel 16:7 (again).

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I just blogged on this verse last week, but there’s no better statement I know to illustrate what God is reminding me of today. No matter what I see on the outside, a person is much more on the inside. And maybe I can’t see that, but God can.

When you meet someone new, do you automatically classify them in your brain? Do you categorize them or put them on mental shelves or file them away to be examined later? I do. And, honestly, I’m not even sure that approach is wrong.

It’s important to make a judgment call about the people you choose to get close to. If you want to stop partying, it’s not a good idea to strike up a close friendship with a partier. That’s a bad example, but you get the point. Sometimes you have to judge a relationship based on actions, and in many cases, that’s wise.

But if someone tells you their favorite movie or book or even job title, does that give you any insight into his or her heart? Absolutely not! But it’s tempting to see it that way.

You hear someone is a factory worker or a car mechanic, and what do you think? You hear someone is a banker or a stock broker, what do you think? You hear someone is a school teacher or a state employee, what do you think?

We like labels because once we label people, they aren’t threatening to us. Or at least we think they aren’t. That’s the funny thing about icebergs. Even if you label them harmless, they can still sink unsinkable ships.

A person’s heart is usually always different than what they look like on the outside, and there’s no easy, simple, three-question process you can go through that will shed any light on that. You can’t learn everything about a person in a few minutes. There is no such thing as a simple person. There’s no such thing as a person without a story.

So don’t think you can understand where someone is at because they like watching Big Bang Theory or Christmas Vacation. And don’t label someone a wild-eyed right-wing conservative because they watch Fox News. Before you can know where someone is at, you have to know their heart.

That’s what matters. That’s where the real person lives. It’s so much easier to address the outside. It’s so much less stressful to focus on what we can see, but imagine what you’ll miss if you write people off because you’re only looking at what’s obvious. Imagine the opportunities that will walk right past you because you assumed that factory worker was just a factory worker.

No, we can’t see people’s hearts. Only God can do that. But we can stop focusing so much on the outside or on what culture tells us to look at, and we do spend more time getting to know the person underneath.

Wheat before harvest with blue sky - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS


People are crazy, and the world is full of them. And most of them don’t know how to drive, right? And everyone knows that the world is full of crazy people. Everyone knows that you can’t take people seriously. But if everyone knows that, why are “people” such an issue? Why do we care what they think? Why do we work so hard to be accepted? And other than the percentage of tax you pay, what does it matter what class you’re in? Is there really a difference?

Wheat before harvest with blue sky - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat before harvest with blue sky – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 62:9.

Common people are as worthless as a puff of wind,
    and the powerful are not what they appear to be.
If you weigh them on the scales,
    together they are lighter than a breath of air.

People are all the same. Maybe some have more money than others. Maybe some have more education than others. Maybe some have more influence than others. But when you get right down to it, people are all the same. And according to this verse, they’re not worth much — lighter than a breath of air.

I always want to make sure I understand the verses I blog about as best I can with my limited knowledge, so I checked this one out in the Amplified Version. It pretty much says the same thing:

Men of low degree [in the social scale] are emptiness (futility, a breath) and men of high degree [in the same scale] are a lie and a delusion. In the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.

I also checked the Message too:

Man as such is smoke,
      woman as such, a mirage.
   Put them together, they’re nothing;
      two times nothing is nothing.

So if people aren’t worth more than a breath of air and a puff of wind, why do we worry about what they think? Why does it matter what their social preferences are? Why does it matter what their opinions are? I think it’s interesting because our entire culture, and even people who don’t believe the Bible, know and understand that the herd mentality is foolish. But what happens when the latest cultural trend hits?

Right. Everyone runs out to buy the same clothes or do the same diet or drive the same car. We all want social acceptance, don’t we?

So how does this help today? Because I’m getting ready to go to work where I’ll be surrounded by people. And then I have a meeting tonight where I will be surrounded by different kinds of people. People are a part of life. So how does this verse help?

I usually go against the grain. Whatever is popular at the moment, I do the opposite. But that’s just me. And while social acceptability doesn’t mean as much to me as to someone else, I still want to accepted. I still want to operate within the normal boundaries of my culture. I still think about whether or not people think I’m weird, and it still matters to me.

But should it?

Here is the danger of taking verses out of context. If you just read this verse and think it’s a standalone verse, you could be tempted to think that this is what God thinks about people in general. Not at all. God loves people, and people were worth the life of His Son.

But that’s not what this Psalm is about. Psalm 62 is about waiting on God when people are against you.

When you’re waiting for God to do something, it’s hard enough to keep your focus on Him without letting other people drag your attention away. When it feels like God isn’t saying anything, people seem to get louder. Their opinions seem to matter more, and their ideas sound revolutionary. But it’s not people we’re waiting on. It’s not people who can help us.

Personally, I’m waiting this morning. But if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I do that a lot. I feel like I’m constantly waiting for God to make the next move. And while I’m waiting, I am always tempted to fall into step with people. After all … I’m waiting. Is there something better to do?

The problem with people is that they are distracting. They can drag you away from your true purpose. And while we are supposed to interact with people (don’t misunderstand me) and we are supposed to love people the same way God does, when we’re waiting for God to do something, we need to keep our eyes on Him. He alone is our refuge. He alone is our shield. He alone is our source of victory. And if we get bogged down by culture and society while we’re waiting for God, there’s a danger that you’ll forget what you’re waiting for.

So don’t be afraid of people but understand that they can be a distraction. And don’t give them more power than they have. Psalm 62:11-12 pretty much sums up why:

God has spoken plainly,
    and I have heard it many times:
Power, O God, belongs to you;
    unfailing love, O Lord, is yours.
Surely you repay all people
    according to what they have done.