Scandalous Grace

Recently, my year long bible reading plan has led me into the always unpredictable book of Leviticus. Nights of reading have triggered heavy eyelids and gag reflexes as the dimensions and specifications of the Tabernacle are outlined and explanations of sacrifices and skin diseases are provided in detail. However, the Living Word of God never ceases to amaze me at the little nuggets of wisdom that are showered throughout the pages, even in the least expected places.

I have tried to stay open-minded and understand more of God’s advice and characteristics, as well as the applicability of the practices throughout my reading of Leviticus. But frankly, it has been difficult. I have a strong stomach, but when blood is being splattered and rubbed on big toes (I promise it’s in there), I have trouble focusing. I haven’t given most of the book a second thought, especially the part about offering God only animals without defect. I mean, duh, God deserves our best, right? Even though we don’t offer animal sacrifices anymore, the concept still makes sense. But, then I stumbled across a passage where the tables were turned and I couldn’t help but stop and reread.

Leviticus 21:17-20, 23

17“Give the following instructions to Aaron: In all future generations, none of your descendants who has any defect will qualify to offer food to his God. 18 No one who has a defect qualifies, whether he is blind, lame, disfigured, deformed, 19 or has a broken foot or arm, 20 or is hunchbacked or dwarfed, or has a defective eye, or skin sores or scabs, or damaged testicles (I promise it’s in there). 23 Yet because of his physical defect, he may not enter the room behind the inner curtain or approach the altar, for this would defile my holy places. I am the Lord who makes them holy.”

Now we weren’t talking about animals, but people being without defect. What?! At surface level it was alarming. I couldn’t help but feel for the people afflicted with these conditions and wonder how hard it would be to place your hope in a God who wouldn’t let you into His presence. I would already feel hopeless from my condition, much less being physically prohibited from entering God’s quarters behind the curtain of the Holy of Holies.

I am not trying to say God changes from the Old Testament to the New Testament, but His relationality seems to. The Old Testament is filled with a logical, step by step way to get to God that seems to have a disconnect and a fixation on faults. On the other hand, the New Testament is consumed with an overflow of emotion as the Presence of God came to earth and ministered directly to the people this passage exiles from the Tabernacle, as He ultimately accepted them for who they are. Talk about mixed messages.

When Jesus was hanging on the cross and took His final breath, it was “at that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart” (Matthew 27:51). This is the moment everything changed. “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) God’s Presence was no longer contained in a temple, behind a curtain, but entered into each of us. There is no longer physical separation, because Easter is an everyday occurrence! Can I get a hallelujah?!

But on my second glance on the Leviticus passage, I was ironically hit on a personal level. God’s spirit is within me. Ephesians 2:13 proclaims, “But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.” I no longer have an excuse for separating myself from God. Even though I have never dealt with literal blindness, lameness, deformities, or severe skin conditions, that would have kept me from entering God’s Presence in the days of the Old Testament, I have spiritually had these afflictions and let them control me. I have failed to acknowledge God’s Spirit working within me, because I have been blind to the opportunities He gives me to grow, I have refused to move into His presence to vulnerably share my heart condition with Him, I have focused on my physical and personality flaws rather than how I can learn more about the character of God, and have carried shame for not appearing as I have it all together. These sound like good enough excuses to keep me from experiencing the love and life God has in store, right?

Seriously, Payton?!

“Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins” (Romans 3:24). I couldn’t bear to think of a time when people would be separated from God, but thanks to “God’s unfailing love and faithfulness [that] came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17), that separation no longer exists. Yet, I constantly CHOOSE to separate myself. Why?! Because God’s grace is beyond my comprehension, but shame is so easy to hold on to. God wants you and loves you as you are. The same God I was slightly agitated with for ordering people with “defects” to stay out of His presence, is the God I can’t fathom yearning for me and all of my flaws to come be with Him. Grace is such a funny thing to me. I can’t think about living without it, but I struggle to live in it. Pastor Steven Furtick warns that the familiarity with the definition of grace can be dangerous, because we lose how scandalous it actually is.

Everyday God gives us the choice to live in His grace, to see, move, and work with His love shining through us. We have the choice! He wants us! He asks for purposeful intentionality as we embark in a relationship with Him.

Let’s get real for a minute. When I was first learning about what it means to follow God, I realized that I had never understood that He wants me to know Him like He knows me. When this switch was flipped, so was my entire world. That was 4 years ago and I continue to get frequent spiritual punches in the gut that remind me of how often I forget to BE with Him in my everyday. This is a privilege the original followers of God did not have access to, yet I neglect the opportunity when He dwells inside me.

Girls, this is a place to be real. A place to lay everything down, including the facades we put on each day. A place to break down the emotional walls we have built up and express true humility and vulnerability with one another. And a place to share how amazing, glorious, precious [and every other adjective that demonstrates the greatness of our God] is and what He is doing in our lives. I am not perfect and I will not pretend to be. I struggle with understanding and accepting God’s grace in my life. You might too. Or you might have some incredible words of wisdom that can help me gain perspective. Ultimately, this is a place to be ourselves and share our love for the One who first loved us. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for this blog and I can’t wait to start learning through each of you!

Happy Easter!

With Love, 

Pay

Philippians 2:13

 

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