So there’s these headlines screaming like your head isn’t aching loud enough just yet.
Some guy said something and all the talking heads wanna make his head roll.
You know the story — maybe we’re thinking different names, different towns, different details — but yeah, same story.
They drag all kinds of the limping and lame and guilty right out into the court of public opinion and sentence us all to the noise of more judgement.
Down the back roads home, I’m thinking about the people flung into the centre of the circling critics. Across the fields to the west, there’s dust. Everywhere, they’re scratching back for the seeds.
Everywhere, there’s people waiting for Someone to scratch words in the dust and make the critics yield.
Like this kid who calls me when I’m nearing home on Old McNaught Line and tells me straight up that the Guy in the sky or wherever He is, is an angry God and she can’t take it anymore because He won’t take her at all.
She’s messed up again, she’s failed again, she’s a train wreck again, and what is the point whenever everywhere you look there’s pointing fingers, especially when you look in the mirror.
I pull over to the side of the road.
The world quiets. Slows.
Sometimes the way to get to the places that matter is to slow down.
I’m all ears and she’s loud and shattered on the phone and, yeah, I hear her. I get it.
A horse and buggy pass, carry on quiet. Somewhere down the road, there’s a kid who’s blown it.
Some guy who thinks he’s fallen for good this time.
Some woman who feels failure deep down in her marrow.
Somebody who feels bone weary of wearing some affixed scarlet letter, some burning brand of judgement.
There’s a whole world of people who feel like the church is a bunch of stone hurling Pharisees.
And there on seat beside me is this ring of dog-eared papers, some lines that I’m trying to etch right into me, memorize by heart, the woman with a bad case of chronic soul amnesia.
“He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7
Yeah, all roads, all events, all cultural commentary, they all lead back here. Jesus stands here.
The woman caught, the guy judged, the kid dragged out, they all get flung out in front of the god of opinions that’d like to trap and judge God too.
The horses out in the field beside me keep walking on. I tell the girl on the other end of the line that she can keep pressing on.
Because the thing is? This is how Jesus handles the condemned and their critics:
Jesus unsettles the comfortable and He comforts the unsettled.
The woman caught in adultery is grabbed by the Pharisees who are caught in the idolatry of smugness and Jesus kneels in the dirt, puts His finger to the dust and that’s what Jesus does: Jesus unsettles the comfortable and comforts the unsettled.
This is what Jesus always does: He unsettles the comfortable critics, the smug judgers, the pious and proud — and He comforts the unsettled sinners, the unwanted strugglers, the undone stragglers.
Who knows what the Man kneeled and scratched in the dirt — but His eyes looked up and into the wounded and wrote hope:
You’re guilty but you’re not condemned.
Whatever you’re caught in, I make you free.
Whatever you’re accused of, I hand you keys.
Whatever you’re judged at, I give you release.
In the midst of trials, Jesus guarantees the best trial outcome:
you’re guilty but you get no condemnation.
There’s more sun coming up over the woods. The horses in the field right there turn round at the end of the field. The dirt’s working up into an open seedbed, loamy and ready.
Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” But he said more, more not to be forgotten: “Now go and sin no more.”
The unsettled who are comforted and the comfortable who are unsettled, both need that more: “Now go and sin no more.”
You can see it all down the road, these farmers with their horses, trying to get their corn planted into the dirt.
And I whisper it to me, to the girl on the other end of the phone:
Grace always grows.
The Grace that grows the Tree to cover sins —-
is the Grace that grows a soul toward obedience.
Though Pharisees may disdain uber-grace as a cop-out and the sinners may choose easy-grace as their shoo-in, but honestly, the thing is:
Grace isn’t a paltry thing but the most powerful thing — the very power of God — so don’t ever underestimate it:
Grace doesn’t ever negate obedience — but Grace always initiates obedience.
Grace enough to cover your sins, is always grace enough to grow you toward obedience.
The order of Christianity isn’t: Go and sin no more and Jesus won’t condemn you.
The order of Christianity that re-orders everything is: Neither does Jesus condemn you — so now go and sin no more.
God didn’t give His Commandments and then lead the people out of Egyptian captivity.
God always leads people out of captivity with His love and then captures their hearts with His commandments.
I exhale with her exhale on the end of the line.
He’s not merely useful to me — He’s ultimately beautiful to me… His beautiful and relentless love that makes a soul relentlessly beautiful.
The horses move down the field like a bold grace and it’s like the trees of the fields might sing it, the spring sky descend with it, like the whole filthy earth might break open to proclaim it, grow it:
God gives you grace and acceptance before you overcome your sin.
Because it’s His grace and acceptance that let you overcome your sin.
You don’t overcome your brokenness to have God’s love.
It’s God’s love that has you overcoming your brokenness.
And there on a side road in the middle of May, I suddenly feel like don’t have anywhere to go if it’s not on this road.
Like I’m laid low and broken open to receive —
His no condemnation is the seed of all my transformation.
Habits only change when we take them to the Cross of Jesus, not to the court of judgement.
Only when you go to the Cross first & hear no condemnation,
can you go to the mirror and see deep transformation.
This is the only one road to take all the way home.
So yeah, headlines, go ahead and turn a bunch of aching heads, roll a bunch of breaking heads, but Jesus wrote something else into this dirty earth and I can take Old McNaught Line all the way home and the girl at the other end of the line can keep walking on, feeling it, knowing it, how Jesus unsettles the comfortable and He comforts the unsettled and she can hearing the singing hope in her veins like an emancipating spring:
Jesus doesn’t condemn you, Jesus is condemned for you.
Stones will be thrown, but Jesus takes them for you.
Spears will be hurled, but Jesus offers His side to shield you.
Battles will come, but Jesus will be nailed to the wall for you.
You don’t have to overcome your brokenness to have His love.
It’s His love that has you overcoming your brokenness.
This is the only one road to take all the way home.
Just past old Ephraim Martin’s, if you look straight toward true north —
you can see the willing lambs laying there at the foot of the Trees.
Next Wednesday, we are memorizing and unpacking John 8:12 of #TheJesusProject: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”
1. Print Out all #TheJesusProject Memory Prints from the book of John here: Scripture Memorization for the Rest of Us: #TheJesus Project
2. #TheJesusProject’s Study: The #1 Organizing Tip Nobody Tells You
3. How to Get Through the Dark Places: #PullACliffYoung
4. How to Live When Life Just Hurts
5. How to Get Through Snowmaggedon & Everything Else that’s Burying You
6. The 5 Words Guaranteed to Change Your Life #DWHTY
7. The One Big Question Today is Really Asking You [And Your Answers Changes Your Life]
8. Why You Need the Unlikely Principle of Ruby Worship
9. The 1 Thing You Have to Stop Doing If You Ever Want a Harvest
10. When You’re Weary & The Body Aches
11. Why You Really Have to Keep Falling in Love