Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 22; 148, Deuteronomy 10:12-22, Hebrews 4:11-16, John 3:22-36
In the letter to the Hebrews, the evangelist writes:
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Isn’t that a comfort? Our high priest, Jesus, knows exactly how difficult temptation is. After forty days in the wilderness before his ministry began, he resisted the devil’s promises of power. On the cross, he forgave those who crucified him. In between, he faced every manner of temptation the rest of us do. His triumph over temptation could seem intimidating since none of us can hope to live up to it, but it is an assurance of sympathy, mercy, and grace.
On the other hand, it gives him an excellent baloney detector.
Certainly he was tempted to make excuses just like we do. To pretend having no pleasant choice is the same as having no choice. To write off the difficult as the impossible. To blame other people for our own behavior. To dismiss those who opposed him as wicked.
Jesus chose the cross; we choose the bottom line. Jesus turned Paul the Christian-hunter into his greatest evangelist; we won’t hire an ex-felon. Jesus entered enemy territory to share bread and salvation; we create an economy dependent on foreign laborers then vilify them for accepting our invitation. Jesus showed grace to his executioners; we legislate against those who don’t share our dogma “for their own good.”
Grace and mercy aren’t granted because we cling to convincing excuses; they are available when we humbly admit no excuse is good enough. It is impossible to seek forgiveness while justifying our sin. When we fail to the love the poor, the sick, or the alien among us – even if we feel they persecute us – we must not blame them for our failure.
Grace is ours for the asking. We just have to stop explaining why we deserve it.
Comfort: Jesus understands your trials.
Challenge: For one week, don’t justify your mistakes to anyone. Just own them.
Prayer: Merciful God, boldly I approach you, humbly I lay my sins before you. Shine your merciful face upon me. Amen.
Discussion: When are you prone to make excuses? How do you react when others make excuses?
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