And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as the only son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness to about Him, and cried out, “He who comes after me ranks before me, because He was before me” From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. (John 1:14-16)
Often we speak of God’s grace being “amazing,” but let’s take a moment and categorize it as “scandalous.” The definition of scandalous is: “causing general public outrage by a perceived offense against morality or law.” From that definition alone, we can conclude that Jesus was scandalous. When we think of something being scandalous, we tend to assume it as a negative.
I want to bring attention to a specific word in the definition–“perceived.” When we perceive something, we look at it from our interpretation. From the perspective of the religious leaders, everything Jesus did was scandalous. He healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6, Luke 13:10-17, Matthew 12:9-11), despite being scoffed by the religious leaders. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners; people who were shunned and outcast (Mark 2:13-17). He told parables that made the religious leaders look bad. Jesus outraged them, which is why they wanted to kill Him. There are many scandalous events in the Bible, but can we take back that word back for a moment? Let us take away the negative connotation and use it to examine how God loves us, gives us grace, and uses it for good.
The famous John 3:16 is a wonderful example of a scandal.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him should not parish but have eternal life.
God giving us His son to die so that we could live is an outrageous thought in this world. Earlier in the book of John, we see more detail on the event.
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2)
This is describing two parts of the trinity. Jesus is the word, and He was there from the beginning (with God) as part of the trinity. Jesus is God. Our king became a human being (fully God and fully man), lived a sinless life, and died a sinner’s death for us. Jesus didn’t deserve to be crucified. His purpose on earth was to give us an example of how to live (and love), then be mocked, beaten, and killed for our sake. He paid our debts. He did this because He loves us.
Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John15:13-14)
Jesus didn’t have to do this. Jesus can do anything He wanted, but He obeyed The Father and fulfilled the prophecies to give us a new and eternal life. This means if we repent (turn away) from our sins, we are made new! He forgives all the terrible things we have done, and we are made holy–not because we of what we did, but because of who Jesus is, because of Jesus’ grace. The entire idea of Jesus is completely scandalous.
So, how do we receive this beautiful gift of grace? Faith.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now boast in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2).
God gives a certain amount of grace to non-believers, because He loves all and leads them to Him. For those in Christ, our faith aids in the grace we receive. He gives us grace to grow our relationship with Him (2 Peter 3:18), to help us pray (Zech. 12:10), so our chains can be broken (Romans 6:14), and so we grow His kingdom (Acts 11:23). We don’t receive grace because we did anything except trust and believe in what Jesus did for us.
But if it is by grace it is no longer the basis of works; otherwise would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:6)
We are called, as Christians, to die to ourselves and let Christ live in us.
And I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2:20-21)
It may seem outrageous to non-believers and the concept can be perplexing. How can you not be you? Why don’t do you want to deny your human nature? It is simple, because humans are imperfect and we serve a perfect God. Our human nature is saturated with sin, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), we find ourselves completely delighted when we strive to be like Jesus. It isn’t in our own strength that we are able to deny the sin in us, but the strength of God as a response to our faith. I know, personally, that I want to be more like Jesus and less like me.
If Jesus was perceived as scandalous, is it any wonder some people don’t understand the things we do to be like Him? Are we being considered scandalous because of our extreme love for Him, His word, and the rest of this world–so extreme that others wonder what is different about us? Are we scandalous in the way we forgive, serve, worship, and love for those who don’t deserve it?
We didn’t deserve it.
Jesus knew some of us would never thank Him, or even acknowledge Him, but He loves us so much that He sacrificed Himself for us anyway. That is scandalous. And it’s our job to show it to the world.
Featured image by Jomayra Soto / via Creationswap.com