So let’s talk about how this boundary and grace work together. Some get hung up on the idea that all we need is grace – God will do it all. No need to learn to be merciful. Grace covers everything. Others think that they have to do it all and tend to get into that attitude of being righteous – like that Pharisee, who said, “I’m glad I’m not like other men” – and think that they can earn their salvation. The issue here, of course, is, none of us has ever been perfectly merciful. Right? It says, “All liars are not going to make it into the Kingdom of God.” In Romans, Paul said, “Let God be true, though every man a liar.” So none of us are going to make it, except for the grace of God. Right? So there are both things involved there. We can’t earn entrance into the Kingdom of God by our own efforts, and yet, we have to try. And if we’ve done all we can to be merciful, we’re still going to need God’s forgiveness, so God will teach us the things that we need to learn to be merciful in this life. And He’ll teach us the things that we need to learn so that we don’t lie. He will send us the people we need to meet to be merciful, and He’ll give us experiences so that we can learn mercy. Some of those lessons, by the way, are very gentle, and others are not. We’ll talk more about what that means later.
I’m going to talk to you about some of the things that I’ve learned over the years about this topic. When I was studying to be a counselor, I had to do several practicums. One of them was at a mental health clinic in town here. It happened to be next door to a homeless shelter. It was downtown, where lots of homeless people were. The people from the shelter, in the winter, would come into the waiting room of this mental health clinic and drink the coffee, which was free, and keep out of the weather. The director made no effort to chase them out, even though they, pretty well, clogged up the waiting room. On several occasions, I saw clients standing, waiting for their appointments, because all the seats were taken up by homeless people who were schizophrenics, and drug addicts, and alcoholics, and things like that. One day I told the supervisor that I wasn’t getting enough counseling hours to meet the requirements of my practicum, and he said, “If you find yourself with nothing to do, go sit in the waiting room and talk to those with schizophrenia.” He said, “They’ll teach you more than the paying clients about mental illness.” So I did. Do you know what I learned? I learned that they were people just like me, with all the same goals, and feelings, and all of that. But they were people who had terrible debilitating problems. Schizophrenia is a terrible, terrible thing to have. That disorder made their life terrible – a trial.
There was this one fellow. We’ll call him Joe. He lived in a pickup truck, which he parked in the parking lot of the mental health clinic. He would eat and shower at the shelter that was next door. In the winter, he spent a lot of the cold days in the waiting room. So I kind of got to know him a little bit. I found out that he’d been married, that he had a daughter, and that he was a truck driver until he suffered a psychotic break, from which he never recovered. He was unemployable because of the voices he heard and the delusions that he suffered.
One day I accidentally dropped my wallet while I was getting in my car to go home. I didn’t realize that I was minus my wallet until I got home. What are the chances of finding your wallet when you drop it in a parking lot next to a homeless shelter? Not too good, right? That’s what we think. Well, when I got home, I realized I didn’t have it, and I called the clinic. Nancy, the secretary, told me that Joe had found it and had turned it in, and it was in the safe waiting for me to come pick it up. Well, I told Elaine about Joe and she was so moved she baked him a plate of her special chocolate chip cookies. The next day I took the cookies to work. And as I got out of my car, I saw Joe in the parking lot and started walking toward him. He started to get really concerned and worried. I could see the pensiveness on his face. I said, “Joe, Nancy told me you found my wallet.” He looked even more worried, and he blurted out, “I didn’t take anything! I turned it in right away!” That caused me to imagine what his life might have been like. He frightened people with his old truck and his shabby clothes. People kept their kids away from him. They crossed the street when they saw him coming. Joe was somebody that people avoided. That was his life. He was crazy. People distrusted him. Well, you know, I smiled at him, and I said, “Joe, I know. And that’s why I’m so glad that you were the one that found my wallet. And I told my wife that you found it, and she was so happy, she made you these cookies.” Do you know what he did? He cried. He wasn’t used to being treated like that. He wasn’t used to being appreciated or trusted.