My family and I had the honor of living and working among the people of India as missionaries for several years. Every day our car was bombarded with dusty hands desperately pressing and tapping against the glass. Women, with naked children on their hips, begged for money and food as we passed their makeshift homes on the medians of the busy Delhi streets. Car exhaust and incessant honking were their constant companions through each harried day and night.
One day, as I was entering our car, a woman gripped my elbow. As I turned around, I was confronted with one of the most pitiful sights I’ve ever witnessed. In her arms she held a small child whose mangled hand had been carelessly wrapped in dirty, bloody gauze. The exposed flesh of his wound was yellow, oozing with infection, and his face was scrunched up, crying. My heart broke with compassion while, simultaneously, my blood boiled with rage as I saw her hand out expectantly. I thought, What type of perverse person would exploit this tragedy for their own personal gain? I didn’t know if the child belonged to her or if he had been “borrowed” to drive up profits for the day. I had no way of knowing if it was her idea to capitalize on his injury, or if someone else was pulling the strings behind the scenes to line his or her own pocket with rupees, and I didn’t really care. I was disgusted and outraged at such shameful abuse and neglect.
Unfortunately, this type of thing happens daily on the streets of India. After my anger had dialed down a bit, I felt the familiar voice of the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart. Is that woman beyond my grace and forgiveness? Would you share my love with her? he urged. I squirmed. Instinctively, I responded, No! I absolutely do not want to share your love with her! She doesn’t deserve it! At this, the Holy Spirit lovingly rebuked me, Neither do you.
Humbled and chastised, I was knocked to my knees in repentance. I knew it was true. How many times do we, as human beings, decide who deserves the opportunity to hear the good news that Jesus died for our sins? If I’m honest, I don’t want Jesus to forgive people who hurt children and use them for selfish gain. And yet, in 2 Peter 3:9, the Bible says “[God] does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (NLT emphasis added). Imagine how the streets of India, or your own neighborhood, might be revolutionized by the transforming power of God’s love at work in a sinner’s heart, if only we are willing to share it with everyone.
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Questions for Reflection:
1. Does God’s grace have limits? We say it is boundless, but do we live as though we believe it?
2. Do we cheapen God’s grace when we only offer it to those we deem worthy?
3. How might the story of the early church have been different if God had not pursued Paul with his grace and forgiveness?