Couldn't be any more clear.
God's been doing some speaking to me lately, and I felt led to share and while I was thinking about what and how to write, He brought this verse to mind. Then, true to His nature, He proceeded to use the verse to further drive His point home and reassure me of what He is telling me.
During a sermon a couple of week ago, Pastor Mark (who is now halfway across the world in Wales for a five and a half month sabbatical) said something that cut straight through my heart.
"Everyone of us, if we peel back the veneer of our social difference, some of us are more educated, some less educated. Some live in a nice part of town, some in a less nice. Some of us are male, some of us are female, some of us are old, some of us are young some of us are middle aged, etc etc. Some of us pull in a quite extraordinary income and some of us are barely making due.....If you peel back all that veneer, educated in this place to this level, lives in this part of town, has this kind of a job. Peel back all the layers of social difference, and what you find in each and every one of us, is a wretch saved by grace. Everyone."
That homeless man you pass by every Sunday morning on your way to church, the one always sitting in the doorway of a closed business in a "less nice" part of town. Who you always make a less than loving comment toward.
That person who wronged you, hurt you, who you insist is completely at fault.
That CEO of your company who you secretly disdain because they make more money than you. And you are convinced if you had that job and made that much more money, you would be as happy as they always seem to be.
That stay-at-home-mom you may not respect because they got married and had kids and never educated themselves.
Or that working mom you make snide, "justified" comments about, who never seems to be with her own kids. Whose heart breaks every morning because they have to drop their kids off, one. more. time.
You, me. Your boss and coworkers. The members of your church congregation that you judge and make assumptions about based on what they drive, how they are dressed and how their kids are behaving.
You were like them. Them like you, when Christ found them. Like Mark said just a moment later in his sermon, "You know who you were, and where you were when Christ found you? You were like that man in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Your enemy had beat you up, stripped you naked, threw you in a ditch and left you to die. And the religious people of the world just kept walking by."
Is the picture getting clearer yet?
Then, this past Sunday we were singing one of my favourite hymns, "How deep the Father's love for us". Once again my heart was struck by one of the verses.
"Behold, the man upon a cross. My sin upon his shoulders. Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held him there, until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished." What I felt God spoke to my heart the week before, was so affirmed when I sung those words. I had this picture of me in the crowd around Golgotha, sneering, jeering and spitting on the Son of God. I had this realization that every time I speak against one of God's own, every time I gossip, speak negatively and poorly about a fellow man, a fellow wretch (whether saved or not), I hurl cursing insults at my Saviour. Talk about being a wretch. Then Pastor Shane started preaching, and my eyes were even more opened to what it does to the heart of God, when I choose sin, pride and slander. Shane started a new sermon series on the book of Hosea, but opened with a glazing over of of the parable of the Prodigal son, but from the father's perspective. The humiliation he suffered when his son, by today's standards, told him he wished he were dead by asking for everything owed to him. We most often relate to the son, and don't take time to think about the feelings of the Father. Then he started into Hosea, whose life was a living manifestation of God's relationship with Israel at the time. He married a prostitute who bore him children but then left him and became an adulterous woman, just as God's people had turned away from him and pursued other gods. He spoke about the disgrace, shame and hurt that Hosea, and God, suffered under the adultery and idolatry of their bride.
I realized that I am that bride. And it made my heart hurt. No, it's not a pretty picture and it's not a nice thing to think about, but it's truth.
So I guess that's my sermon (that I certainly didn't intend to be so long). Maybe it will speak to you, maybe not. Here enters the verse from Ephesians, where the point was knocked out of the park with the first part of verse 29 and the second part it what you are reading now.
Be encouraged, be challenged.
Remember that you, me, are all wretches saved, by grace.