Imagine you’re at a bus stop.
Technically, it’s a free shuttle. The sign at the covered bus stop says that the free shuttle runs on this route.
You wait. You wait some more. Several buses come and go, but no free shuttles, and none of them end up at your needed destination.
Finally, you ask someone walking up the street if they know anything about the free shuttle.
“Yes, the free shuttle goes on this route and will take you right where you want to go. Just sit back; relax. This is the route for the free shuttle. Don’t worry.”
Relieved, you sit back in the shelter of the bus stop and wait. You check your email on your phone, text a few friends, check your Facebook. Soon, you realize another hour has passed.
Just then, another bus comes, and someone gets off. “Please,” you say, “do you know when the free shuttle will be coming? I’ve been waiting a long time!”
“It’s Sunday,” the man replies. “The shuttle doesn’t run on weekends.”
3 weeks ago, I wrote a post on what allows me to still wear my LIVESTRONG bracelet and to still listen to the song, “Healer.” What allows me to do that is grace.
This week, with some big news in the Christian media (which I’m not going to comment on :)), I kept hearing the phrase: “Jesus accepts people as they are.”
I hear this phrase a lot from my American Christian friends. I can’t say that in the past this phrase ever bothered me all that much. I can’t even say I really gave it much thought until those recent conversations.
Something about the way the phrase was used didn’t sit right with me. I started to wonder if this phrase actually accurately depicts the fullness of the Gospel.
We generally use this phrase as another way of saying, “We shouldn’t judge where people are. Jesus accepts people where they are and so should we.”
But what if that’s only telling people half the Gospel?
Mary Heathman, in speaking at a conference I recently attended, said, “Grace and truth are two sides of the same coin. They are not two different coins.” She went on to say that one without the other isn’t grace or truth; it’s pseudo-grace and pseudo-truth. Grace and truth, in essence, are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other.
I immediately think of John 1:14:
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
What if “Jesus accepts you as you are” is just the grace part? Can we really have grace without truth if Jesus was the fullness of both?
Isn’t that sort of like telling someone that yes, the shuttle you’re waiting for does run this route, but not telling them the specifics of how to get on the bus?
Did Jesus accept the rich young ruler where He was? How about the woman caught in adultery?
Can you think of examples in Scripture where Jesus accepted someone who was stuck in sin where they were (grace) without calling them to something better (truth)?
Because I can’t.
This verse is the closest I can think of to the sentiment of “Jesus accepts you as you are” stated by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 11:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Sigh. We all give a big exhale when we read this verse. What a peaceful, embracing sentiment. Jesus continues:
Take my yoke upon you
Now hold up! That doesn’t sound very “come as you are”-ish! Exchange my weariness and burdened self for a yoke?
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Jesus’s yoke may be easy, but it’s still a yoke. His burden may be light, but it’s still a burden.
Perhaps this is why He implored the crowds listening to His teaching to count the cost before committing to being His follower:
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.
“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Luke 14:28-33
The problem may very well be with our definition of the word “accept.” However we couch it, the thought that Jesus might accept or embrace us where we are is not necessarily reassuring.
Because I don’t want to stay here.
What we do know is that Jesus is always calling us to so much more than what we’ve experienced thus far. He calls us to abundance. Therein lies the hope of the Gospel: the promise of life-changing transformation.
For that, I’m all in.