Advent Reflections: God’s Amazing Grace
Editor's note: This Advent season, Bread Blog will be running a series of reflections written by lay members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission, from the church's 2013 Advent Meditations booklet.
By Steve Yu
Isaiah 9:18 - 10:4
John 10: 31-42
Hebrews 10: 19-25
The verses found in this study differentiate between the principles and outcomes of love for neighbor and those born of self serving intentions. In these passages, we are reminded that loving God is intrinsically tied to love of our neighbors, whereas the path of selfish gain can lead to societal injustice.
The verses found in Isaiah and John provide a stern warning about the consequences of living self-serving lifestyles. The crimes against the poor in Isaiah remind us that the perpetrators of these offenses are committed by people who engage in vain pursuits of power, admiration, and/or wealth at the expense of the most vulnerable. When the fires of God’s purification finally tear down unjust systems of abuse and power, the oppressed are liberated, and the oppressor is faced with the opportunity to transform.
In the book of John, Christ also warns us of the danger of becoming obsessed with religious and societal rules (as we understand them) to the point that love for the neighbor becomes secondary or non-important. This obsession can lead us to minimize love through "justified" condemnation, and rejection of others; even those who do wonderful deeds for the well-being of "the least of these."
On the other hand, I can’t accept the notion of a hateful God who destroys the "wicked" out of pleasure. I have experienced and sensed enormous love from God. I can, however, accept the notion that we can reap what we sow, and that God is always willing to show us mercy just as she has called us to do likewise to those who have harmed or hated us.
The Scriptures remind us that God will never leave us alone. This knowing becomes a calming influence in the midst of personal or societal strife. This faith helps us cope throughout our lives because we have an inner anchor that keeps us grounded. It also allows us to take risks, make a stand for justice, and experience what Martin Luther King, Jr. mentioned when he said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
Finally, these verses remind me that this transformation can only be made through the blood of Jesus Christ. “The new and living way” mentioned by Paul in the book of Hebrews is a reality full of love for our neighbor, creation, and God. God’s transforming Grace opens our eyes to the beauty of simplicity, to gratitude for what we have, and liberation from vain wants. With a sincere heart that has become full of faith, we can hold to this blessed hope without wavering. The Kingdom of God is of a greater realm, and this irrational love "provokes" us to encourage and support each other as brothers and sisters in a reality where class, race, and nationality mean nothing in her light.
Prayer: Dear God, have Mercy on us, for we do not know the depth of our own sin. Have Grace upon us, for we are your children longing for redemption. Give us your Holy Spirit, so that we know that we are never truly alone. Give us your Son, Jesus Christ, so that we may gain a loving heart through you. Have Mercy on us oh God, have Mercy on us. And teach us to walk in your ways. Amen.
Steve Yu is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C.
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