Today we welcome Brandon M. Queen to Reformed Margins! Brandon is the host of E.A.R. Podcast, a ruling elder in an Evangelical Presbyterian Church, member of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Working Group, and a sheriff’s deputy in Louisiana. To hear more from Brandon, check out the E.A.R. Podcast wherever you listen to your favorite content.
I do not understand how or why God can show so much grace and mercy to despicable people. In my line of work and a Sheriff’s Deputy, I have seen people murder others and still live on, yet justice is not served swiftly. But I must remember, I am not the judge, I am not God, and I obviously do not have his patience. As a believer, I can only express grace in the same way Christ displayed and expressed grace to the sinners and tax collectors.
As a Sheriff’s Deputy, some of my duties include deterring crime, handling calls for service and sometimes settling a family dispute. During one call for service, I arrested a young man for theft. He stole a credit card belonging to his girlfriend’s father. I brought him in for questioning and he admitted to committing the crime. He then told me that I had a “very intimidating face” and that I was “going to rain hell” upon him. At that moment, I could only think of sharing the gospel with him, but I was too scared to say anything. I didn’t want to muck it all up. As I continued to listen to the suspect — now arrestee — it felt as if God was softening my heart to share. I was reminded of this verse; “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
My attitude toward the prisoner changed and I continued to question him about the crime he committed as I drove him to our parish jail one hour from the location of the crime. I then began to share with him about God’s grace and mercy and I cited Romans 6:23 to him. He asked me where I got the saying from and I told him.
We must live in God’s grace, act in God’s grace and love in God’s grace, which means we must show grace in the tough times. I have to daily remind myself that I am in desperate need of God’s grace and am not much different from the prisoner sitting in the back of my squad car.
What does it mean to live in God’s Grace?
Think back to when you were a child. We were loved through every part of our development, through the good, the bad and the ugly. Our parents did not treat us differently as we grew into who we are now. God is the same way. As a father shows compassion to his children, compassion is shown to those who fear the LORD.
I have two nephews that love to “beat up” their uncle. Sometimes I get kicked in the head or punched in the eye. Do I condemn them for their horseplay and their behavior? Absolutely not! Especially if I am the one inciting the rough play!
Yet many people think and believe this is how God treats us. In all my years of loving God and hearing Him in the still of the night, I have never heard God call me an idiot for messing up or stupid for not trusting His judgment. Instead, God is right beside us, showing us how to live in His grace despite our failures, weaknesses, and faults.
As I continued to share with the arrestee, he thought he was too far gone for God to save him. He assumed his sin had already damned him to the fires of eternal hell. I quoted to him Romans 8:1, a reminder for both of us that sin does not hold a bearing over those who are in Christ Jesus.
As I was listening to the prisoner ramble on about his mistakes and failures, I thought of all my sin, bad thoughts, my temptations, and failures. Then I pictured a vault with a lost key. All of my sins are locked away forever, never to be seen again. I thought, “Well this guy who claims to be sorry for his actions gets the same love — only if he believes. Now don’t take it for granted, anyone can say, Lord, Lord but not really believe.” But the joy of living in God’s grace is that He no longer sees the ugly stuff that holds us down. He only sees his Son Jesus Christ at work in us. Grace speaks of the extreme generous love of God.
I told my prisoner that if we are believers, we are under God’s grace and no longer have to earn acceptance or approval from God. He loves us as we are. The prisoner became quiet. Then he asked,“How can God love a person like me?” In my humanity, I agreed with him. How could God love someone like him? Like me? But I told him “You must give your entire life to God, starting from this point on. The good, the bad, the ugly. Give your morality, personal relationships, and your soul to Christ. Live in God’s grace and sin no more.”
What does it mean to ‘Act’ in God’s Grace?
The prisoner asked me if I was upset with him. I assured him that I was not.and shared a story with him.
Sometimes I pull someone over for a traffic violation only to warn them but then they become irate, calling me names and saying horrible things about law enforcement. Several times, I have changed my mind and issued citations to those who became irate. What was going to be a warning is now a ticket that they have to pay. Other times — perhaps more than I should — I still issued warnings.
I asked him, “Which times did I act in grace, and which times did I not act in grace?” He, of course, answered that when I issued citations I did not act in grace. He followed up by saying, “I would have written then a ticket too if they got ugly with me.” He said they “get what they deserve.”
Here was my opportunity I explained to him that God always acts in grace. Even when we are vile and our actions are done out of selfishness, God always acts in grace, giving us an unmerited favor when we should receive His wrath. John Stott reminds us that “Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.” In short, grace is mercy not merit. We did not earn His grace, he freely gave it to humanity.
The arrestee made an unusual comment. He said, “I only committed this crime so that my little girl could have something nice.” I asked him if he got what he deserved and he said he deserved to get his hand chopped off. I told him he needed to pray and ask God for forgiveness and ask that He would remove the sin and temptation as far away from him as possible. I acted in grace by sharing the gospel with him and giving him an assurance of grace given by God himself.
Acting in God’s grace is not something we can do in and of ourselves. By grace alone we have been saved and by grace alone can we act in God’s grace.
As we continue in our daily lives, remember that people need to know they are in need of Jesus our Savior. They won’t know the need for a savior if we don’t open our mouths and speak of His grace and mercy. You do not need to be a preacher or a theologian to preach the gospel to lost people. We are to call to Glorify God and enjoy Him forever by looking for opportunities to share the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ with all people, whether we think they deserve it or not.
Isaiah 55:11, ESV
Rick Warren, Live Relaxed In God’s Grace http://pastorrick.com/devotional
Psalm 103:13-14, ESV
Philippians 2:12-13, ESV
Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV