Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Scandalous and Inclusive Grace

Posted on 03 Mar 2015 in Church, missional theology | 1 comment

Let’s be honest.

Grace is an enigma.

We don’t understand it. Not really, anyway.

We think we do. We like to pretend we do, but we don’t.

If we’re honest, we are often much more like Jonah than we care to admit. We think we should get the say on who gets it, and how much they get.

We classify sins. The ones able to get grace end up sinning in ways much like we do. They look like us, act like us, are educated as us, and make the same mistakes we do. Who needs to call out gluttony or lust as long as its a private thing.

But those other people. Thank heavens that we are not like them. They sin in ways that are much more destructive than we do, right? We aren’t like those filthy Ninevites that God should kill and destroy, and we aren’t like those pagans in our society that mock God and deserve to be punished, banned, and ridiculed. What they need is to hear how much God is upset with them, not how much grace he has.

The Reading.

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.lightstock_167786_medium_justin_

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa. Acts 10:1-8

Radical, Inclusive Grace

Grace is a hard thing to understand. We want to regulate it, to be the gatekeepers for it. Deep down, I think we’re all aware of how much we need and we’re afraid that if God gives it to those people, he might run out for us, so it’s just better to make sure they never get it.

Acts 10 gives us this dramatic shift in the story (yet again). We’ve gone from an isolated group of Christians, to a persecuted movement, to ISIS-zealot turned Christian Paul, and now, in one last unfathomable level of inclusion, the Gentiles are getting in on God’s grace.

Cornelius, a Gentile (that’s bad) Roman (that’s really bad) solider (the active, occupying enemy, that’s worst of all!) gets a vision from God. Turns out his heart for the poor and fervent prayer life have caught the attention of God himself. He’s told to go get a Jewish fisherman turned Apostle Jesus-follower so that he might hear the next step of God’s redemptive plan.

He immediately sends for Peter, who as we shall see in the next story, will have his own struggle with God’s redemptive and transformative grace.

Here are three quick thoughts on grace:Friends together

  1. A proper understanding of grace excludes an “us versus them” mindset. It’s all us. We all need grace.
  2. God’s grace will never run out, so stop thinking it needs to be regulated. No, God doesn’t need you to be the gatekeeper, he’s got it under control.
  3. The more we give grace, the more we find we receive. Our job is to set the factors and determination, it is to be as wild and extravagant with it as God is.
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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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