Joe wrote a few days ago how he was “fixing an issue” between his wife and himself “with a legalistic approach” (well that’s being kind to yourself), when his wife responded with something she recently read that really spoke to him: “Empathy is the mortar of grace.”
“Put me in my place. Again,” Joe wrote. Well, thanks, Joe, because it also gave us a Catch for this morning.
This image works so well, especially when you think of it in terms of grace turned outward — empathy being the mortar between the grace I receive and the grace I give out.
Grace is all about receiving something you don’t deserve. There’s mortar that goes along with that; it cements together grace received and grace given. If you receive what you don’t deserve, how can you ever be in a position of preventing anyone else from receiving the same thing — especially when you know it’s been extended to everyone without exception?
If you have received what you don’t deserve, how can you not want everyone else to have it too? Are you going to turn around and say to the next guy, “Sorry, buddy. You’ve got to earn yours.”? Of course not. Jesus told parable after parable refuting that attitude. Having received forgiveness, are you going to turn around and act towards your brother or sister with an unforgiving spirit? Are you going to extract what someone owes you after you have just been released of your own larger debt to someone else?
When Jesus asked us to pray, “…and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” the “as” is critical. It is the mortar of grace. It’s assumed. Of course we’re going to give out forgiveness if we get forgiven.
You can’t bring grace inward without grace turned outward; if you can, what you received was not grace. It was something you think you either earned or deserved. Are we so unwilling to give up our right to judge someone else that we would actually disqualify ourselves from our own forgiveness? Really?
How can you ever judge someone Christ died to forgive? That would be like desecrating the death of Jesus.
Realizing your own sin gives you empathy for everyone else’s.
My daughter received the most intense trauma residency in the country at a general hospital in the San Bernardino area amidst some of the worst poverty and gang activity in southern California. She talks about that hospital as if it were in a third world country. Among so many people who cannot afford insurance, they wait too long to come to the hospital. If they are in line, their situation is most likely critical. And the line in the emergency room is so long, trauma doctors like Anne have to keep monitoring those in it to make sure someone doesn’t die waiting.
In the trauma center there is a place they call “the wall.” That’s where they chain prisoners from the nearby penitentiary who are too sick for the prison hospital. Guards have to be with them at all times even while they are being treated, and Anne has to treat them right there while they are chained to the wall.
In one case, a prisoner was a so near death that Anne persuaded the guard to let him have a bed. In the process of trying to find family or friends anywhere, Anne came up with nothing. There was no one to even sit with him while he died. Full of empathy for the man, and exhausted from the end of a 12-hour shift, Anne excused the guard and lay down beside the prisoner until he died. Whatever sin or sins he had committed, they weren’t any worse than hers; and besides, no one deserves to die alone, no matter what they’ve done.
Anne’s grace extended outwards towards that man was no different from God’s; in fact, I’m sure that was God lying next to him in the form of my daughter.
“I feel that the Catch community already serves and should continue to grow as a “City of Refuge” as described above – or, if you will, a “City of Welcome” – for EVERYone regardless of their circumstances.
We as members need to set aside whatever pettiness, fears, or judgments that stunt both our personal growth and the Catch community’s expansion.
There IS Hope for everyone beyond that which we can see. Embrace Him with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind!”
– Bob near Seattle
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