We Are the Hem of His Garment

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“Having heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His robe. For she said, ‘If I can just touch His robes, I’ll be made well!'”

Mark 5:27-28 (HCSB)

I had a friend of mine share this scripture on Facebook yesterday (thanks, Kyla!), and I was struck by something that I never had even considered before. This woman was changed by an encounter with Jesus Christ, but this was no ordinary encounter. She had such faith in Jesus, that she believed that merely touching His robe might heal her.

And, of course, she was right.

But here’s the thing. What struck me is that she didn’t have to touch JESUS HIMSELF. She just touched something that was in CONTACT with Him.

Isn’t that US as Christians? Aren’t we the hem of his garment–constantly in contact (or we should be) with Him?

And shouldn’t people who we interact with on a daily basis be fundamentally changed through their contact with us, just as this woman was by touching the robe that Jesus wore?

If not, does that mean our connection to the Savior needs to be repaired, reinstated, or recharged?

The Terrifying Aesthetic of Grace


The concept of “grace” is something—in all my academic splendor—I can’t really wrap my head around. It certainly is not something I come by naturally. I rarely find myself tending towards treating others with grace as a matter of habit or instinct.

Perhaps I was born without a “grace gene,” which would explain my inability to fully comprehend it. I don’t know. Or maybe everyone else in the world finds it as perplexing as I do.

I’ve heard it explained many times, and frequently, those explanations satisfy the turmoil in my brain when it comes to understanding grace. My favorite definition is that, while “mercy” is being saved from a punishment we do deserve, “grace” is receiving something (good) that we don’t deserve.

Grace has a certain appeal on a conscious, intellectual level. I mean, who doesn’t want to receive a gift that they never earned? Heck, I love that kind of stuff. When friends offer to pay for a meal for no particular reason other than “because they want to,” I eat that stuff up (pun intended).

But when we allow grace to sink down into the fertile soil of the soul, there is a mortifying flip-side to grace. Deep within ourselves, we suspect that we are deserving of some form of punishment for all the bad that we do. We can’t help ourselves (literally). The road we’ve traveled to get where we are today is marred by horrifying lapses in judgment, missteps of the grandest kind, and repetitive sins that defy any rational explanation. As Paul said in Romans 7:24a: “What a wretched man I am!”

But amazing grace saved a wretch like me. And while this makes for a “sweet sounding” verse, it is shocking and a bit terror-inducing.

Why, you might ask?

Because grace of that magnitude requires a response. Grace forces a crossroads point in life multiple times over.

First, in recognizing the grace of Jesus Christ, we are forced with a decision to accept it or reject it. Fortunately, this is not a “one and done” type of decision, and those who have chosen to reject the grace of Jesus can, at any time before death, change and choose to accept it. Of course, the unpredictability of life makes that a bit of a gamble, one whose consequences stretch over the never-ending continuum of Eternity.

Second, upon accepting the gracious, free gift of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, we are faced with a powerful call to action. Over and over in the Bible, after people’s lives were radically changed when their paths intersected with Jesus Christ, we find them subsequently running through the streets to proclaim their encounter with the Son of God. When our lives collide with incomparable beauty of grace, our reaction should be similar.

But that’s scary, isn’t it?

The grace of God is one of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful spiritual truths in the Universe. God’s love for us prompted Him to extend grace to billions of people who could not possibly do anything to deserve it, all through the undeserved suffering of His own Son.

But the flip-side of the beauty is the terrifying aesthetic of grace—a horrifying and weighty responsibility that comes with that grace.

We now carry that grace within us, and we are responsible for sharing it and extending it to others, neither of which is easy.

But it is truth, and truth is rarely easy to swallow.

So, I stand before you (digitally speaking) and share with you, throughout the course of this journal, my story. It is my responsibility to share. I am motivated to share. I am held accountable to share. And parts of my story are ugly, shameful, and downright disgusting.

Scary?

Yes.

Necessary?

Of course.

It’s the terrifying aesthetic of a life that has accepted the gift of grace.

Standing Stark Naked in the House of God


It’s not every day I can say, without a shred of fabrication, that for a few brief moments, I stood buck naked in the church that serves as one of my spiritual anchor points. But yesterday, June 30, 2013, that’s exactly what happened. It’s not an exaggeration—we’re talking naked-as-a-newborn, birthday-suit kind of nudity here.

I kid you not. Never before—and likely never again—will I be so physically exposed in the House of God.

And all this following an even more shocking exposure in front of a crowd of nearly 400 people.

***

I’m a bit of a thinker. Okay, that’s a bit of an understatement. I plugged my way through twelve years of post-secondary education to end up with a doctorate in physical chemistry, with an emphasis in experimental quantum mechanics. I say this not to boast—and believe me, there are very few situations where accolades of any significance would be heaped on me for that admission—but to give you, dear reader, a sense of the kinds of things I like to sink my teeth into.

But it’s not just “science-y” stuff. I’ll read a textbook on macroeconomics if that’s the only thing available (albeit grudgingly).

It even extends to the Bible. Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours reading the Bible and listening to equally countless sermons that provided me a unique, intellectual understanding of Biblical history and doctrine. While certainly not to the extent of pastors and preachers who have spent years studying the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Old and New Testament in seminary, I could claim an encyclopedic layman’s knowledge of the scriptures.

“[Jesus said] ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs,as which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.'” —Matthew 23:27-28, HCSB

I can’t tell you how many times I had heard that verse in the context of a Bible study or a sermon and it sailed right over my head. Those are some pretty powerful words aimed at the “religious elite” of Jesus’ day. The scribes and the Pharisees were those who had studied the scriptures since an early age, and likely had the whole of the Old Testament memorized. And yet, in essence, Jesus called them “dead on the inside.” (That’s my paraphrase.)

In retrospect, Jesus might as well have been talking to me. I could quote relevant scripture from the Bible for almost any situation. I wrote a book about faithful financial stewardship. I taught a Wednesday night class at my church. I went on two mission trips to minister to the indigenous tribes of Panama. I’ve served on my church’s worship team for the past two years. In previous churches, I’ve filled in preaching for the pastor when he was out of town. In that same church, I was a deacon–in fact, before my family moved, I had been voted in as the next chairman of the deacons.

Let’s be honest, that’s a pretty impressive religious resume. Don’t you think?

But that’s all it was. I had built my religious resume on a foundation of little more than accomplishments, not an unshakeable faith. I had prayed the prayer of salvation when I was very young, but the commitment to Jesus Christ had eroded heavily for thirty-plus years.

***

So, back to being naked at church.

CrossRidge Church in Little Elm, Texas, has a lovely setup. Behind the stage where the praise team leads worship and the pastor brings the word of God to the congregation is a hallway that contains a waiting area for the musicians and a long hallway with both men’s and women’s changing rooms/bathrooms. In one stall inside the men’s changing room, I stood shivering beside a pile of sopping-wet clothing pondering what had just happened.

After thirty-odd years of presenting myself as a devout believer, I reached a crisis-point in my life and found myself in need of immediate resolution. A few days prior, in the office of Pastor Marc Farnell, we resolved my crisis.

After thirty-odd years of professing my faith in Christ, I waded into the baptismal waters for a second time.

My realization just days before that I too was a “whitewashed tomb” gut-punched me in a way that I could not have anticipated. Whether or not my profession of faith in Christ when I was very young was sufficient—and I believe it may have been—I had no choice but to affirm my commitment as an adult and make that new, highly-informed commitment public to those who had been walking alongside me, unaware of the internal battle raging in my soul.

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Similar to what Jesus said in Matthew, on the outside, I seemed righteous to people, but on the inside, I was full of darkness and hypocrisy.

In a matter of moments, I exposed my deception to the members of CrossRidge Church, and I’m happy to report that—as I expected—they cheered my decision to make Christ the Lord of my life, once and for all.

When Pastor Marc tugged on my t-shirt, pulling me backwards under the surface of the water, I faintly heard the words “buried with Him in the likeness of death.” I closed my eyes and let the warm waters of the baptistry flow over my face.

Dying to sin and self. Buried.

No sooner had I experienced this display of sybmolic burial, I was pulled up and greeted with the words, “…and raised to walk in newness of life.”

I had walked into the baptistry, nervous, shaking, knowing that I was exposing myself to my friends and church family for the fraud that I had become. I was naked (in the figurative sense, at least).

But walking out of the baptistry, I was clothed in the warmth and encouragement of a loving church family, as well as the embrace of a wife who has stood by me through eleven years of marriage (many of which have admittedly been pretty rocky).

Raised to walk in newness of life.

***

Standing in the changing stall, my mind raced with the events of the previous few moments. I pondered the strange parallel between my physical and spiritual states.

Anyone who had seen me at that moment—and praise God, no one did—would have seen everything. Every imperfection. Every blemish. Every fat-roll. Just moments before, I had allowed my church family to see me for what I really was.

A man who had realized his need for a Savior, and who chose to repair the disconnect in that relationship.


JESSE GREEVER is a man—a human being full of flaws who is redeemed by the blood of Christ. He is also husband, a father to two (almost three) beautiful daughters, a scientist, and an author of both fiction and non-fiction, and the CEO of eLectio Publishing. Find out more about Jesse at www.jessegreever.com.