It upends my perceptions, changes my priorities, and challenges my assumptions. Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you: these are not commands that mesh well with my sense of entitlement.
Then I read the stories of Troy Davis and Ross Byrd, two men whose lives serve as testimonies to this radical grace. Troy Davis' last words were a prayer for mercy and blessing for the men taking his life. Ross Bird fought until the end to save the life of Lawrence Russell Brewer, the man who killed his father by dragging him behind a truck for miles, and who was unrepentent to the end.
Still, this radical grace escapes me.
I can find grace for all kinds of unlikely candidates. I rejoiced the day the death penalty was abolished in Illinois, even though the two men sentenced to death for murdering a family member were among those granted a repreive. I have grace for the "enemies" whom I tried to kill and who tried to kill me when I was in the Army. I have no problem finding grace for Troy Davis, for Russell Brewer, for Osama bin Laden. I have grace for the oppressed, for the addict, the prositute, the orphan, the unloved, the marginalized.
But I put grace in a box, or more precisely, in boxes. Some of these boxes are consistently full, some I find frequently running low, and the one I find empty most often is the box of grace for professing Christians.
Yes, I have no grace for Christians.
When I have a disagreement with a professing Christian, especially one so profound as one over opinions on the death penalty, I want to lash out, to tell them how wrong they are (or more precisely, how right I am). I want to set the record straight. I want to burn their palaces and their empires to the ground. I want to shove their hypocrisy in their smug, smiling faces.
Mostly, I want to throw stones.
But herein lies the problem. As @HaleyKristine writing for @Deeperstory this morning points out, He walks past my pile of stones and looks past my own imperfections every day, and embraces me where I am, where I was, and where I will be. In staying my hand, it's not the soul of the object of my ire He is saving.
It is mine.
Ironically, death penalty arguments are a fitting analogy. Just as violence begets violence and hate begets hate, grace begets grace. In calling me to let go, and to drop my own stones, He is confronting me in the midst of the cycle of violence that I am an active participant in, and bringing me into Grace. When I seek to reengage the cycle, it is an affront to Grace, and more damaging to me than to those I would seek to harm.
So in the end, I am Troy Davis, and I am Lawrence Russell Brewer. I am both capable of being a conduit of this radical Divine Grace, and at the same time I am desperately in need of the same.
Help me to show Grace as You have shown me Grace.
Help me to walk in Greater Love.
Help me to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly in You.