From Grace to Grace
“And he received not a fullness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fullness.” (D&C 93:13) Sometimes I hear so much about Christ’s perfection that I forget about his progression. The word perfect, as used in the New Testament, means whole. It has become more significant to me as I think of the whole human race belonging to one another. In this view of heaven, it cannot be heaven unless and especially it includes those too often deemed by society as “less than” or “others.”
In Matthew chapter 15, a woman of Canaan approaches the Savior, pleading,
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” (22)
At first Christ ignores her, and when his disciples ask him to send her away, he says,
“I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
It seems He has a narrow focus of His role on earth. But the woman is unrelenting, again pleading, “Lord, help me.”
The next verses really strike me when I take them at face value. Christ’s answer is quite harsh:
“But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.
And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” (26-27)
Her persistence pays off and Christ acknowledges her faith and heals her daughter. Some may interpret this story as a test of her faith, but I view it now as a sign of Christ’s humility and maturation.
This interpretation might not work for everyone, but it allows me to identify with Christ’s growth and grace. He allowed his vision to be expanded by the pleas of a woman who believed in a God who included even the outcasts. It reminds me of the story of Linda, a transgender woman brave enough to share her story and challenge our views and actions. It reminds me of survivors of sexual assault who refuse to be silenced and degraded. Father Ed Dowling said, “Sometimes heaven is just a new pair of glasses.” I am grateful for the courage of those who share their stories and help me to see with new eyes. As I’ve let their experiences penetrate my soul, I’ve become more than I knew I could be.
I love how Father Gregory Boyle describes this fullness, “Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.” This is what Christ modeled when he ate with the sinners and touched the lepers. It was not about serving them, it was about being one with them.
I think there can be fear that if we show love we are somehow condoning sin. Christ was a great example that love must come first. When we take time to get to know a person and truly see them, often we find that our judgments fall away. We begin to see each person as sacred and feel compelled to celebrate their worth.
What stories have challenged your biases and expanded your view of heaven?