The comma of grace.

As I’ve written about before, one Easter I got into a bit of a yelling match with a guy in a visor at an Easter egg hunt. The whole thing was exactly how Jesus imagined us honoring that day.

We were at my in-laws country club, which always makes me feel a little weird. We’re certainly rich in a global way, but I kind of think that they can all tell that I’m just a visitor. I feel like the real members can smell middle class on me. (Which kind of smells like sun ripened raspberry and feet by the way.)

So after I pointed to where a golden egg was hidden to my then 5 year old daughter, he yelled at me for cheating. I told him that his white visor made him look like a financial planner who was wearing his “casual uniform.” Whole thing got very out of hand. (I didn’t say that, but I thought it later when we were driving home, which is where most of my comebacks occur.)

This year, we spent Easter in Chapel Hill at my parents church. Standing there waiting for the egg hunt to start I had a flashback to that rugby scrum one from a few years ago. I might always remember that moment at Easter, but there’s a more important one I won’t forget. One I’ve written about before.

I’m talking about the “comma of grace.”

I found it in Luke 22. In that chapter, Jesus is being led away. He is headed to the cross. A million prophecies are coming true and chaos is breaking out a little amongst disciples that up to this point have sworn to serve until death. In the midst of that, he pulls Simon aside because he knows that Simon will soon betray him.

He says to Simon in Luke 22:31-32:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”

And then, he drops the 9 words that I can’t write about enough. The 9 words that I often turn to when I’ve failed and messed up again and feel hopelessly undeserving of hope.

Jesus tells Simon:
“And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Do you see what Jesus is saying in that first half of the sentence, And when you have turned back? He’s saying:

You are going to fail.
You are going to fall.
You are going to lose it.
You are going to make commitments and break them.
You are not going to always be the man you family needs.
You are going to sin.
But, but, but, you will turn back.

You will come back. You will know redemption. You will know return. You will know a God that not only allows the “comeback” but actually celebrates it.

When I read the phrase “And when you have turned back,” I read a loud, wild picture of what grace really looks like.

And then, if you go too fast, you’ll miss the comma. You’ll miss the gap that sits quietly between the next thought. You’ll miss it because like me, you might misread the second half of that sentence.

Here’s what it says:
“And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

But here’s how we write it sometimes:

“And when you have turned back, repent for a long time and stay a long way from me until you are clean enough to return to my presence.”

“And when you have turned back, please stay far away from any ministry opportunities. You are too broken to help other people. How can you minister to others when your own life is so messed up?

“And when you have turned back, here are the 57 things you need to do in order to earn back my good favor.”

But Christ doesn’t do that! He drops a comma like a grenade.

He gives us the gift of the comma and then asks us to strengthen our brothers. Not beat ourselves with emotional whips. Or lay in a hole of shame. Or stay to the shadows of church, afraid to be seen.

He wants you. In his arms. By his side. Surrendered and free in his presence.

Not because you deserve it or have earned it or are perfect.

Because of Easter.

That’s it.

We all get the comma of grace.

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Comments

  1. Jennifer says

    This was so awesome!
    I’m a post-abortive woman and I help facilitate a post-abortion support class/Bible study 2-3 times a year. Sharing God’s message of healing and forgiveness is essental to help a woman, or a man return to effective service for Jesus Christ.
    The lies of Satan tell sinners that you have nothing to offer if you’ve sinned. That, even if you’ve repented, your sin makes you unusable by the Lord.
    I offer that He has come to bind-up the brokenhearted. That we will be oaks of righteousness, a planting for His glory. There is no glory in sin, but it’s not the end of story. As believers, His righteousness is our righteousness. By the sufficiency of His sacrifice, we are made whole and fully equipped by Him to serve; to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.
    “And when you turn back, strengthen your brothers.” How beautiful! “Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin!” Amen!
    Let us throw off the yoke of unforgivenes and embrace the throne of grace!
    Let us serve Him now and with confidence!
    Again, thank you for your post.

  2. Kathy says

    This is my favorite of your posts so far. I captures the essence of grace and is so well written.

  3. says

    Such a beautiful expression of what it truly means to be a child of God. Forgiveness and sacrifice. Reminds me of the three parables Jesus told related to the subject. The prodigal son, the lost coin, and the lost sheep.

    Beyond the parable, the sacrifice of Jesus is one big story of the redemption of humankind. We failed. God forgave through sacrifice.

    Thanks for this post Jon, it truly exemplifies what Easter is all about.

  4. says

    This is a great story. Each of us has a story, sometimes it’s ongoing, but the truth of our story and the transparency of it is what is impactful to others these days. Stories have permeated our culture so it seems fitting that we tell our own and include the impact that knowing the risen Christ has had on us through our experiences. Thanks for illustrating just how beautiful Grace really is.

  5. says

    This simply rocks, and I am partly disgusted at myself (not really…well…a little, because I’m like that) for just opening this email today. Bet I really needed it now though. :)

  6. Je Ann says

    Wow. I am blown away by how powerful that message is! Like stunned into emotional shock! Thank you so much for sharing that Jon!

  7. Greg Dressel says

    One thing I’ve come to understand about Abba is His favorite hobby is redemention. The bible is full of accounts of redemention, even Jesus’ geniology screams redemention.

    It doesn’t matter how you start the race or how you run the middle of the race. It matters how you finish. We need to learn how powerful our testimony is in reality. Revelations says they overcame by the Blood of the Lamb and thier testimony. Thier testimony is only powerful because He shed His Blood to redeem us. The story of the prodigal, is my story and yours. We are the son who wasted so much, but Abba literally is standing waiting for us, love motivates His heart. Love set us free, by The Lord of all becoming the sacrifice for our mess, once and for all. Good news indeed….

  8. Jim says

    I really appreciate your words. I can’t tell you in my words just what this means to me. Please accept a heartfelt thank you from the very depths of my heart.

  9. says

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