Michael Coren, sometime ago, told a story about leaving work and being asked by a panhandler for some cash. “I’m not going to give you any money,” he told the man, “but if you’d like to join me, I’ll buy you a meal.” The man readily agreed, and after assembling his posessions (a great many plastic bags) they proceeded to walk down the street.
They were greeted at the reception desk of a casual restaurant by the host who doubtfully asked, [insert arched eyebrow here] “Are you together?” Michael glanced at his dinner companion – he took in the sight of his unwashed hair, scraggly beard, his dishevelled clothing – and replied, “Yeah, he’s with me. Table for two please.”
I have often wondered what was going through this man’s mind as they entered the restaurant. I imagine that he might have held his breath when the host asked the question “Are you together?” … I have no doubt that he had experienced rejection before, most likely he had come to expect it, and perhaps he was steeling himself for the worst. Can you sense his dread?
In a very real sense this is our story. Our own clumsy attempts at righteousness, without the covering of Christ, made us look spiritually unkempt. In the presence of Jesus’ purity we simply could not measure up. And so I imagine myself standing beside Jesus when someone asks, “Is she with you?” Who could fault them for asking when I am as aware as they are of the great chasm that separates me from God’s holiness? Isaiah 64:6 declares, “Is there any hope for us? Can we be saved? We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated. Our best efforts are grease-stained rags.” [The Message]
And so, I hold my breath, dreading the rejection that will inevitably come next – but just before despair and real horror set in Jesus speaks, “It’s okay, she’s with me.” With those words I am welcomed; I am accepted; I am made complete. This is the grace that has been extended to us; the forgiveness we have freely received. I am no longer viewed through my own “righteousness” but through Christ’s unblemished work that has brought forgiveness to me.
Wow, that is amazing love.