There are a lot of things that as Christians we are supposed to be against, I suppose.  We're supposed to be against things like abortion, and gay marriage, and premarital sex, and drugs, and cursing, and transgender bathrooms, and I guess democrats. 

Jason Aten is an author and creative director writing about More Grace.

The truth is, it's hard to keep track of all the things Christians are supposed to be against. I've tried to find a list in the Bible. I found one instead that said this - 

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12).  

Interestingly, it seems like Paul, the guy who wrote that list, knew we'd have trouble with it.  It's like he knew that it would be tempting to notice when the people around us aren't living up to the list, so he goes on to say,

"bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (v13)

It's true, Jesus was certainly against some things. There were definitely some things that really bothered Him, and there were even things He took a stand against. What's most interesting to me is that the things that really got Him worked up were usually the faults of the religious leaders, not of the sinful crowd. 

The problem with the list of things that the religious leaders of today often come up with for us to be against, is that it's all about what's wrong with the "sinful crowd."  I remember reading Jesus' command to the woman who had been caught in adultery, when He tells her "go and sin no more." Jesus definitely was against adultery, but I don't think it's insignificant that He says this to her only after He had literally saved her from being stoned to death.  

Before He said anything to this member of the "sinful crowd," He dispatched with every single member of the righteous brigade that was ready and waiting to execute their personal brand of religious rule enforcement. The religious leaders were against not only her sin, but against her.  

Jesus certainly wasn't for her sin, but the difference is that Jesus was FOR her.

In fact, it seems to me that Jesus was "for" a lot more than He was against.  As I read the Bible, I find a Jesus who was for compassion. Quick aside, it's not an accident that the very first words used by God to describe His own character to Moses include the word compassion (Exodus 34:6).  It's the first thing He says about Himself.  

Jesus was for abundant life.  He was for forgiveness, and for truth.  He was for holiness.  He was for love.

But mostly, Jesus was for grace.

Grace changes things. It changes things now, and it changes them eternally.  Grace is the pathway that allows us to be forgiven and experience eternal life. Grace is the oxygen of relationships, which is why it's the foundation of our faith. Without grace, we would have no relationship with Christ. It's precisely because of the grace He extends to us that we are able to be in relationship with Him.

It was grace that moved Jesus. It was grace that motivated Him to heal. It was grace that motivated Him to embrace those who had been rejected. It was grace that motivated Him to raise the dead. It was grace that found him at a dinner party with a bunch of society's worst - a sinful crowd. It was grace for us that moved Him step by step towards the cross.

It's also grace that allows us to experience the beauty of relationships here on earth.  It's the pathway that allows us to forgive and experience community. Grace is what allows us to sit down and share compassion with those who are different. Those who disagree.

Grace is what reminds us that our value doesn't come from our positions, or place of birth, or job, or status. It reminds us that it comes from what was done by the one who is for us.  It comes from our identity in Christ - which is the result of, well, grace.

Imagine what a little grace might look like in your life, in your family.  Imagine what it might look like in your conversations on social media (yikes).  Imagine what it might change about your relationships at work, or in your marriage. Imagine what it might change about the way you are raising your children. Imagine how grace might change the way you think about that person you disagree with, especially the one that's a Democrat.

As Christians, we are called to be for grace.  We are called to be for far more than we are to stand against. If you are a Christian leader, you are accountable for what you are for. If the only thing you are for is pointing out what Christians should be against, I think you're doing it wrong. 

Don't get me wrong, personal holiness is a real thing. Sin is a real thing. But the Gospel isn't a list of what to be against, it's a story of grace. The Gospel compels us to share that story - and that grace - with the world around us, even when the world around us makes us uncomfortable. Even when the world seems to be against everything we believe. Even when the world around us is broken. Even when it's surrounded by a sinful crowd, or maybe Democrats.

(Just to be clear, I like plenty of Democrats just fine, but it's saying something that many Christians would much rather spend time with a sinful crowd than with a crowd of Democrats.)

Grace allows us, actually it commands us, to be for each other. That's something we could all use a little more of right now because there are a lot of things that need changing, and grace changes everything.


I guess it makes sense that the church spends a lot of time talking about faith. Faith, it turns out, its a pretty important part of what it means to be a follower of Christ, and it also happens to be one of the most misunderstood parts. I’ve been a part of the church for a long time, and I’ve heard a lot of sermons preached about faith. Unfortunately a lot of them go something along the lines of "if you simply have enough faith, God is going to do/give/provide/show you the thing you are believing for."  

That sounds great, except, sometimes He doesn't.

jason aten is an author writing about what the church gets wrong about faith

Sometimes we pray for people to be healed and they aren’t.  Sometimes we pray for a friend to overcome an addiction, and they don’t.  Sometimes we pray for God to move in one direction, and He doesn’t.  In fact, sometimes He moves in the opposite.

So my question is, why? Is it because of a lack of faith? Does God actually withhold the things He wants to do for us because we simply don't "believe enough?"  That doesn't seem likely to me based on who I know God to be.  

Don't get me wrong, I believe it's certainly true that most of us have far less actual faith than we'd like to imagine.  But I don't think that's the issue here. I think there's something else going on that has far more to do with the character of God and the nature of our relationship with Him - and specifically the nature of His promises.

One of the biggest problems is that I think that often we are believing for God to keep promises He never made to us.  And I think the church is part of the problem.  I think the church does a poor job helping people to understand that faith isn't trusting that God will do the thing we want Him to do.  Faith is trusting Him to do the thing He promised He would do.  

Faith is believing that God always keeps His promises.  It’s taking Him at His word.

Kind of like Mary and Martha expecting Jesus to show up and heal their brother Lazarus.  After all, when they sent word to Jesus that their brother was sick, He promises that “this sickness will not end in death.” (John 11:4).  But that's not what He does.  He doesn’t heal Lazarus. He doesn’t do the thing they are expecting Him to do. In fact, Lazarus dies. 

Later, when Jesus does show up they give Him a hard time. "Jesus, if only you had been here, our brother wouldn't have died.”

Did you catch that? “Jesus, if only you had…” There’s a sense of almost indignation that Jesus hadn’t done what they expected him to do.  He hadn’t healed their brother and the sisters were upset. They had asked Jesus to do something, and they expected that He was not only able, but that He would come through and deliver.  I’ve had a lot of “Jesus, if only you had…” moments in my life.  Maybe you can relate.  

“Jesus, if only you had healed my sister...” 

"Jesus, if only you had gotten me out of trouble..."

“Jesus, if only you had come through on this job I prayed for...”

"Jesus, if only you had made my wife understand…"

But that wasn't the promise Jesus made. He promised that the sickness would not END in death. The sisters only understood that as a promise on this side of death. They only understood it to mean that Jesus would do one thing, heal their brother. But Jesus’ promise is much better. If they had truly understood, they would have realized that Lazarus’ death meant only one thing - it’s not over yet. This isn't the end. That’s what Jesus told them.

There’s something else about the promise. It comes in verse 5 and reads: “It is for God’s glory, that God’s Son may be glorified.” Did you catch that? The sickness, and the promise has a purpose.  The thing you’re going through has a purpose.  The thing that you’re praying about but God doesn’t seem to answer, despite your faith, has a purpose.  Take Him at His word.  Every one of God’s promises accomplishes His purpose, and His ultimate purpose is His glory.  

Later Jesus says to the sisters “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)  God is always working according to His purpose. He is always about accomplishing His plan, which the Bible tells us is to bring about His glory.  There’s no doubt, we’ve been getting in the way of that since the garden of Eden, but that doesn’t stop God from working to accomplish exactly what He set out to accomplish in each and every one of us.

Paul writes that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28) The trouble is, we often want to be the one to define “good.”  We have our own idea of what is good for us, according to our plans and our agenda.  So we imagine that God’s promises align with our purposes.  Yet, the truth is that God is always working for our good, despite our misunderstanding of what that means.  We can always trust that no matter what, He is organizing and ordering our steps to lead us towards the best possible outcome - our good. 

If only the church spent more time talking about faith as trusting in what God was doing - what He said He would do, instead of faith as trusting that God will do what we want Him to do. I know, it preaches well to stand in front of a congregation of people, each with a list of things that they need from God. I get it.  Superstar pastors have preached it well, and churches have been built on this concept of faith.  So have a lot of disappointed and disillusioned Christians, who are wondering “Jesus if only you had…”

So church, stop encouraging people to believe in promises that God never made, and instead help people grow in faith - the steadfast belief that God always keeps His word.  He always keeps His promises, His promises always accomplish His purpose, and His purpose in your life is good.  


There’s a story in the Bible that I love.  

It’s a short little story, but don’t confuse short with small. It’s not a small story.  It may not take up much space in ink and paper, but it’s worth making room for in your heart, and it’s a good place for us to start.

You can find the story in Mark chapter 12:41-44.  It’s just 4 little verses with a big message. But before we get too far, let’s rewind the tape just a little.  It turns out the context is as important as the story, because what Jesus does in those 4 verses says a lot about what He’s really up to. 


You see, Jesus has just come to Jerusalem a few days ago, on what we now call Palm Sunday, and for the past 2 days He’s been traveling back and forth from Bethany, where He likely stayed with His friends Mary and Martha and Lazarus.  That would be the Lazarus that He has just recently raised from the dead.  Yeah, that guy.  

Now, Jesus is traveling back and forth, teaching in the temple and confronting the religious leaders, knowing full well that He is headed on a collision course with the very people who would have him crucified in just days.  I wonder if we can imagine the burden of what was coming, the burden weighing more and more on His every step.  I wonder if we can imagine the exhaustion that had started to set in as He taught in the Temple that day. 

Which brings us to Mark 12:41, where we read that “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.”  A few quick thoughts: first, this isn’t a story about money.  You may have heard it preached about money before, and that’s fine, but I think that if you read this story as being about money, you’re missing a bunch of really cool stuff that God wants us to notice.

Second, it says Jesus sat down.  He sits down in the middle of what was called the “court of women,” which simply meant He was in the smaller of courtyards that were outside the temple buildings, where both men and women were allowed.  It was here that the boxes were placed for people to bring their offerings.  It was also in this court that most of the public transactions took place, since it was open to all Jews.  Bottom line, it was a busy place.

I imagine Jesus walking across the courtyard, where He finds a place on the stone floor, against the stone wall.  He sits down and the scripture tells us “He watched the crowd.”  Jesus is people watching.

I used to travel a lot for work.  It wasn’t uncommon for me to fly 3 or 4 times a month, and I spent a lot of time in airports.  One of my favorite things about airports are the people.  I know I lost a lot of you at “favorite things about airports,” but follow me for a minute.  I promise I’ll get somewhere worthwhile.  

I’d often sit near the gate, waiting for the plane, as people would pour past, one after another.  A mom and dad, with their two little ones pulling their Mickey Mouse carry on suitcases, headed off on their first adventure to Disney World.  An older couple, with passports in hand, leaving on a post-retirement world excursion.  Young professional men and women in business attire, hurrying here and there, with faces buried in their phones.  Each and every one had a story, and I don’t know why, but I was always captured by the idea of each unique story.

I wonder if that’s perhaps what Jesus was thinking as He sat and “watched the crowd.”  I wonder if perhaps He was thinking through each of their stories, each person He had come to save.  Each story that would change for eternity as a result of His purpose and mission here on earth.  Of course, He actually knew their stories - which is of course the point, and where it gets interesting.

As Jesus sat, He watches “many rich people” throwing in large amounts.  I wonder what He was really thinking as they make a scene of it all.  I wonder if it made Him angry, or if perhaps He was just too tired of it all.  I wonder what He was thinking as He watched so many of them miss the point.  It, of course wasn’t about the amount of money, or the show.  It was, as it always is with Jesus, about the heart.

I wonder what He was thinking, when out of the corner of His eye, He notices a quiet, elderly woman moving slowly across the courtyard towards the collection boxes.  In the midst of the busy crowd, she surely stood out.  Her gait was slower, her posture lower.  She moved deliberately, but not for show.  She makes her way to the boxes, and as she does - Jesus does something I love.


In verse 43, it says that Jesus calls His disciples over.  He’s been sitting and watching along, but He doesn’t want them to miss this.  He wants to be sure they get it.  “I tell you the truth,” He says to them, “this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.”  And just to clarify the point for them, I love the way He continues in the Message translation: "All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” 

When I was younger, I wanted to go to space camp.  It’s this really cool place in Huntsville, AL that kids go and learn about being an astronaut.  I used to have the brochure, and I couldn’t wait to become a space cadet. 

I was totally into space, and NASA, and I remember once reading that when they were first figuring out how to send a man to the moon, there was a slogan, “to the moon or bust.”  I imagine that slogan plastered on posters, and signs, and coffee mugs and buttons, reminding people that failure was not an option.  Whatever they did, had to work, because there are no lifeboats on a rocket ship.  There was no room for a plan “b.”  

As Jesus watched that elderly widow walk across the courtyard, and put her two coins in the offering box, I think that the thing that caught His eye, was the giant button on her clothes that read “Jesus or Bust.”  You see, this elderly widow had no plan B.  It wasn’t just that she was obedient to God, that she had made Him her plan A.  She gave her all, everything she had. She held nothing back for herself - no plan B just in case God didn’t come through.

Most of us are like the wealthy people.  We make a show of our “faith,” sure to do all the right things, especially when someone is watching.  We make sure that our “faith” looks good, but in reality, it doesn’t take much faith to follow Jesus on Sunday, or at church, or when things are going great.  But if you’re a poor elderly widow with nothing… literally nothing, it takes faith to give all you have and trust that God has it under control.  It takes faith to let go, and hold nothing back.

I think this is what Jesus wanted the disciples to see.  I think this was the big picture He wanted to impress on them.  He knew that in just a few days He’d be leaving them, and while they had certainly been following Him - they had made Him plan A - He wanted to be sure they remembered the example of faith and obedience of this poor widow.  He wanted them to eliminate plan B, and live a “Jesus or bust” kind of life.

Faith isn't just about making Jesus plan 'A'It's about letting go of plan 'B'.png

I think that’s exactly what He wants for us. I know that it was easy to make Jesus my plan A, but getting rid of my own plan B was the really hard part. Letting go of my plans and my agenda is where things really get hard for me. But faith isn’t just about making Jesus plan A, it’s about eliminating plan B. It’s about living for Jesus or bust.