No Matter What
My daughter got into some trouble over the weekend. It was just your ordinary, run of the mill, typical five-year-old kind of stuff. But she was reluctant to talk about it out of fear of getting in trouble, making us angry, and disappointing her teacher. Tears streamed, words could hardly choke through the sobs, and she started feeling ill because of guilt. It is hard to watch your little girl wrestle with a big life issue. To us, the matter was small but significant to discuss. To her, it was a crisis.
At one point she looked at me and said, “Daddy, tell me a story from the Bible.” As a preacher, how do I say no to that? And as a dad who wants his girls to lean on God as their foundation and source of strength, wisdom, and meaning, this made my heart proud. So I told her the story of the story of David and Nathan the prophet (2 Sam. 12). Looking back on it, it may not have been the best choice, but it let us talk about repentance and forgiveness. We talked about how David found God’s grace even in a dark time. And we ended by talking about the story of the Prodigal Son, and how forgiveness is offered no matter what has happened.
One of the phrases my wife uses with our girls is “no matter what.”
We love you, no matter what.
Regardless of what you’ve done, we love you, no matter what.
We are a family, no matter what.
We are thankful for you, no matter what.
There’s a sign that hangs above our fireplace with those words inscribed upon it. It has become our family mantra and motto. It is our reminder that we will mess up, make mistakes, and mis-handle situations. We will sin and fall short. We will say the wrong thing, overreact, not always follow up or follow through. But we will love, no matter what.
What a beautiful mantra for the church to remember, too. Because the church is made up of sinners saved by the grace of God. That is what brings us together to worship on Sunday. I am blessed to worship and fellowship weekly with a wide range of people. We have six nationalities represented in our congregation. We have people from all walks of life, from homeless to incredibly wealthy. We have older and younger members; boomers, Gen Xers, millennials and Gen Zers. Blue collar and white collar. Men, women, and those who don’t label themselves in the binary gender spectrum. Democrats and Republicans. Liberals and conservatives. We are a church of immigrants, nationalized, and native-born citizens. People dealing with addiction. People recovering. People with broken dreams, struggling marriages, and thriving marriages. Kids who have left home and left faith. Kids who have returned. People with mental health struggles. People with disabilities. And a host of other things that are often used as labels.
But in the church, this is us. The world seeks to divide in so many ways, but God’s love unites. So we love, no matter what. Because we are a people united by the grace of God. That is what makes the difference.
That was the message that Paul wanted to emphasize to the churches to whom he wrote.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:26-28)
[We] have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col. 3:10-14)
It is Christ that makes the difference. God loves us and sent his son for us. When we forget that fact, we tend to get high and mighty. We begin to divide the world into “us” and “them.” Or “sinners” and “saints.” We complain that the world is falling apart, we begin to scream about the sins of others, we see ourselves as having it all together but how dare anyone else make mistakes or get it wrong. But when we remember ourselves rightly—as sinners saved by grace—we recall how to extend grace to other people. We begin to see others in light of the grace we have received.
For me, that is the blessing of church. When we assemble, I gather with a group of people who have very little in common except for the grace of God, and I am blessed to call them my brothers and sisters no matter what. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we celebrate the God who loves no matter what. When we sing, we praise the God who grants us grace no matter what. We speak, we share, we hug, we welcome, we forgive, because of what God has done for us. And we learn to love—no matter what—because love binds us all together in perfect unity, binding us to Christ and to one another.