Summary: Part 3 in series Kingdom Stories. This message looks at the parable of the unmerciful servant for what can be learned about grace and forgiveness.
The Three-Legged Chair
Kingdom Stories, part 3
Wildwind Community Church
David K. Flowers
March 25, 2007
When was the last time you were the recipient of grace? Grace is a great thing to talk about in church, because grace is the cure for what ails us the most deeply. Grace is the cure for guilt. Grace is the cure for inadequacy. Grace is the cure for sin, both intentional and unintentional. Grace is the cure for arrogance and weakness. Grace is the cure for fancying ourselves both better and worse than we are. Grace is an equalizer, because no matter when or to whom it is given, it is never deserved. Anyone who has ever received grace and thought you deserved it – if you really did deserve it, it wasn’t grace you received. I mean, I should just say it, shouldn’t I? Grace is amazing.
So when was the last time you received grace? When’s the last time you were forgiven before you even asked? Many of us who are parents have had incredible grace moments with our kids, haven’t we? I’m talking about those times when we say or do something so hurtful to one of our children and, when we finally get the guts to apologize, we can tell they had already forgiven us in their hearts long ago, simply because it was their desire to forgive.
I have told the story before so I will not belabor it, but grace was me having come completely unglued with my girls when they were smaller. Me laying on my bed looking up at the ceiling, humiliated by my own behavior, unable to look Christy or my girls in the eyes, when Christy comes in and says, “Are you coming out for dinner?” I replied, “I can’t face those girls after how I just treated them.” Christy said, “Your girls are requesting your presence at the table – they told me they would like to serve you dinner.” Grace is what happened in my heart when I brought myself to stand up and walk into the dining room and sit down in my chair, and three little girls who I had deeply wronged took my order and put food on my plate and kissed my cheeks and said I love you. Grace brings life. I sat in that chair looking down at the floor, feeling like I wanted to just dissolve and disappear, but at the same time, the shame began to melt away, drowning in love and forgiveness and affection – and within minutes I was free. Free from the self-hatred I was wallowing in – free from the slavery of my expectations of myself – free from the hopeless accounting that was going on in my heart – “let’s see, I’m good because of this and bad because of that, but good because of that and bad because of this.” Grace is a three-legged chair. It’s the thing that shouldn’t be able to bear your weight, but you throw yourself on it and find you are more than okay – you are completely safe, and you find you can rest there with the load off that you have been carrying. Grace is the cure for comparison – I’m better than you, but not as good as you, and probably halfway between you and you. Grace defies logic, but carries with it a logic of its own, that comes straight out of the Kingdom of God. Grace is otherworldly. Grace as a way of treating people was virtually invented by Jesus, as was the idea that God is a God of grace. Interesting isn’t it that before Jesus, the understanding of how God thought of us was just another version of how we already tend to think of ourselves. Do this and you’re okay, do that and you’re not okay. Hang with these people and avoid those people, do these things and avoid those things, and you’re okay. Jesus changed that, introducing the world to a God who loves sinners who are down and out, people who are at the end of their ropes, the end of themselves, the end of all hope and all sense of self-reliance and self-esteem. A God who doesn’t need to draw boundaries between good people and bad people, who is willing to simply declare righteous anyone who comes to him with the one character quality necessary to receive grace – humility. Without humility, you cannot receive grace. And that’s too bad, because as I have said, grace is what we most need. There’s something scary about the fact that some of us are incapable of receiving what we most need. See you have to muster up some humility to come out of the bedroom where you are sulking and counting your failures and sit down and be served by the one you have wronged – to allow that person to love you, to forgive you before you’ve even asked, to see through your failures right straight into your fear of being unloved and unlovable, to bypass what you do and go straight to who you are – or who you wish you could be.