When you were a kid, your mama probably had some. You know the ones. Those special towels that looked as if they had never been touched. Perhaps it was a fingertip towel or maybe a full-sized hand towel. But you knew to not dry your hands on the aforementioned towel.
If you used the guest bathroom, you’d better wipe your dripping hands on your pants or shirt. If you were really lucky, your mom might place another small towel on the sink for your use. One with ragged edges and strings hanging off. One that used to have a pink flower but was so faded you could hardly make it out any more.
Keep that towel in the back of your mind. We are going to come back to that.
As a Christian, I was taught to show love and grace to “the least of these.” Who are they? They’re the ones who don’t know Jesus. Maybe they’ve struggled with addiction or been down on their luck. They might have spent some time in jail. Sometimes their language could make a sailor blush. They are the down and out. The ones we Christians might say don’t know any better. But it’s also the nice people. The ones who pay their taxes on time and keep their yards cut. They give to charities and help little old ladies cross the street. But they, too, don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus.
We have been taught to show grace to “the least of these.” It’s what Christians are supposed to do. I’m going to label the Christians who show love to this group The Least of These Christians.
But there are some Christ followers who look at the “down and out” and just see rule breakers. They don’t want to show them grace because they don’t deserve it, since they don’t live the way they should. And in focusing on those broken rules, this group of Jesus-loving folks become legalistic. We will call them the Legalistic Christians.
This is where things get tricky.
The Least of These Christians are nodding their collective heads right now because they are so frustrated with the legalistic Christians. I mean, come on, they need to get their act together and love like Jesus. Right?
Remember that pristine towel your mama had for the special guests to use? Oh friends, so often, we are guilty of picking and choosing to whom we offer grace. We show guest towel grace. “You can use this towel (points finger), and you can use this towel. But not you and you and you (points on other side of room).”
The Legalistic Christians offer grace to the “good” people who don’t know Christ, but they can’t extend it to the rule breakers. The Least of These Christians are passing out grace in full force to the down and out, the overlooked and unwanted – but that grace stops when it comes to their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are caught in the trap of legalism.
If we are honest, we have all been guilty of guest towel grace at one time or another.
Jesus came to teach us love for our fellow brothers and sisters – no matter what.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8 ESV
If we want people to know God, we have to love like God loves. It’s time we stop showing guest towel grace. Instead we need amazing grace – abundant grace – grace that is offered to all without judgement.
Even as I was working on this article, I found myself chatting with my husband about someone who drives me crazy on Facebook. “Ugh. Why is _____________ so annoying?” I told him. And as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized I was guilty of guest towel grace. I didn’t want to show it to the person who annoyed me, but that is exactly what God calls us to do.
So I challenge you. I challenge myself. Who is that irks you? Is there a person or group of people who gets on your nerves and under your skin? Offer that person/people to God and ask Him to help you extend amazing, abounding grace. Grace that is greater than all our sin.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 ESV