The hip young Christian singer had spent his entire academic career in Christian schools. He had a passion for Jesus that captivated the ladies in the audience. As he strummed his guitar, he told how he’d recently been invited to play for a class of first graders at a local public school. He’d debuted a work-in-progress, a bouncy tune about creation, that really connected with the kids. At the end of the song one little guy shared an insight about Jesus. (Pretty cool, especially since it was a public school.)
The singer shared how amazing it was to bring the name of Jesus to a group of kids that didn’t know Him. The ladies heaped “ooohs” and “aaahs” of praise. I sat in the audience and observed, but something about his words burned inside me.
I replayed his comment, “Kids that don’t know Jesus.” Maybe it was an innocent slip, but between the lines I heard his assumption: Kids outside of a Christian school environment don’t know Jesus.
Sometimes we assume that the four walls and sign outside determine whether Jesus resides in a place…and in the hearts of its occupants—or not. As a result, it becomes easy to identify “good” behavior from “bad” and “godly” environments from “worldly.” We mark the minefield, finding comfort and safety in this “knowledge.”
By doing this, we limit the Almighty and box Him in. We start to play God as we look down from on high, determining who needs saving, what is “too worldly” or where has God abandoned all together.
The thing is, the Creator of the Universe doesn’t abide by the boundaries we mark or the walls we erect. He will go where He will go. His grace knows no geography.
Personally, I have seen Jesus in the public schools. I have heard Him in secular music. I have encountered Him in non-believers. And I have traveled past walls topped with barbed wire and armed guards into the depths of a maximum security prison—surely a place where evil dwells. Yet, even there Jesus lives, glorious, redeeming and merciful.
Christian establishments do not hold the market on grace. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. As Philip Yancey says in What’s So Amazing about Grace, “I experienced as much ungrace on the campus of a Bible college as I had anywhere else in life.”
I think Jesus would concur. During His ministry He didn’t spend much time inside the walls of religious institutions, in fact He often rebuked the Pharisees. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27)
Jesus went out to the people to teach and preach and heal. But, He didn’t do it out of a sense of superiority, self-righteousness or pity—He did it out of love.
As believers, we can get so caught up in ourselves and in our own way of thinking. We need to follow Jesus’ example and go into the world with love. Not because we think we’re better than, but because we know we aren’t.
And when we do, we shouldn’t be surprised to find that His love has already gone ahead to light the way. Because God’s grace truly is amazing.