A while back, I received a delivery for one of our ministries at NCN. The delivery was missing key components, which we needed that night! It was largely the delivery guy’s fault, and while I wasn’t upset at him, I couldn’t believe what he asked of me. He said, “Hey, I’m trying to get the supervisor position at work, will you call my boss and put in a good word for me?”

On the heals of failure, this guy was asking for a good reference.

There have been many times when I’m hanging out with kids and they say or do something bad. This often happens on long trips. Even though they may have done something wrong, they expect me to tell their mom’s that they were awesome on the trip.

When I lose track of my own sinfulness, this behavior becomes surprising to me. Sitting in my office today, I realized that this is exactly the same thing I do with Jesus. I sin in multiple ways, and then ask Jesus to give me a good reference for my relationship with God. What’s crazy is that Jesus provides the reference.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:6-8

All of this makes me wonder about the line between grace and guilt. How do I, how do we, love kids and at the same time not give them the impression that grace is cheap?

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” – Romans 6:1

I may not get this right, so be patient with me, and chime in to the conversation. I think we love them by showing them there are consequences for their actions, but at the same time showing them they are more accepted and cared for then they ever dreamed possible. This means that sometimes we bring a kid home, and chat with their parents about their behavior, but it also means we tell them they are welcome back. Jesus showed us the consequences for our actions by taking our death/punishment upon himself, and boldly forgiving us and welcoming us into his family.

In 45 minutes, kids will likely start showing up for 180. They will test the limits of my patience, but I must remember that I test God’s patience. They will struggle to understand the love and care we provide, but I must remember I struggle to understand God’s love and care. As God looks upon me and sees the righteousness of Jesus, I need to look upon these children and see them through the same loving eyes.

God, help me to see past the bad behavior and baggage that each child will bring with them tonight. Help me to see them as you see me, a disciple desperately searching for Jesus, but often choosing to roll in the mud. Help me to lovingly point these children to Jesus, and God please help them to take on and apply his perfect reference.