For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. Ephesians 2:8,9 (New American Standard Bible)
Have you ever really listened to how dysfunctional the words of the song “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer” are? Rudolf didn’t do what the other reindeer did plus he had a shiney red nose. The other reindeer made fun of him and ostracized him from their group. Their affection and care were not based on the natural and living worth of the red nosed reindeer but was withheld because it was based solely on performance. We all know the story. Suddenly one foggy night Rudolf’s lighted nose helped Santa and the reindeer deliver Christmas. Then how the reindeer loved him. Based only on Rudolf’s performance was he accepted by the other reindeer. He was only as good as he could perform. If the fog hadn’t socked the North Pole in ol’ Rudolf would still be sleeping in the corner of the barn.
I cringed the first time I realized the strong message of conditional acceptance that song conveyed. It sounded a lot like how I can be. Those who know me best know I certainly can be particular in how I give my total acceptance. I wish I could say I don’t struggle with this tendency. But I do-constantly. Jesus was always grinding the Pharisees for that attitude. A “sinner” was someone who didn’t act in the spirituality of one of the religious elite. In the eyes of a Pharisee someone of a lower spiritual class did nor even merit touch. Look at how Simon the Pharisee judged Jesus when a woman considered a “sinner” anointed The Lord’s feet with her tears and costly perfume (Luke 7:39). I can be magnanimous with some people’s sin. In fact in my high-mindedness I can be so filled with pride that I will actually gloat over how spiritual I am. Until someone comes along with a problem I consider a real sin. I think the Lord loves tossing these situations through my houses of glass to shatter my ugly conceit.
Jesus was always showing Himself to be the center of loving activity among those thought to be hopeless and totally lost. Think what most of us would tell that woman taken in adultery in John 8. You know you really are a whore and you’re only suffering the consequences of your choices. Now get Christ in your life and start going to church. That’s a 2 line sermon that in that kind of circumstance most of us couldn’t resist preaching. The grace of God said, “I do not condemn you either, go and sin no more.” Thank God He doesn’t look upon us with conditional acceptance. We’d all be in the corner with Rudolf. Grace. It is a concept that is hard to get our minds and hearts around. It is acceptance and merit that are undeserved even through our mistakes and omissions. Let them who have eyes to see and ears to hear learn this lesson. No shiny noses required.