18 February 2011

A Miracle of Grace

Kent Hughes describes an event in the life of a distinguished judge of the High Court in England.
The church he attended had three mission churches under its care. On the first Sunday of the new year all the members of the missions came to the big city church for a combined Communion service. In those mission churches, which were located in the slums of the city, were some outstanding cases of conversions — thieves, burglars, and so on — but all knelt side by side at the Communion rail.

On one such occasion the pastor saw a former thief kneeling beside the judge. . . . After his release the thief had been converted and became a Christian worker. Yet, as the judge and the former thief knelt together, neither seemed to be aware of the other.

After the service, the judge happened to walk out with the pastor and said, “Did you notice who was kneeling beside me at the Communion rail this morning?”

The pastor replied, “Yes, but I didn’t think that you did.”

The two walked along in silence for a few more moments, when the judge declared, “What a miracle of grace.”

The pastor nodded in agreement. “Yes, what a marvelous miracle of grace.”

Then the judge asked, “But to whom do you refer?”

The pastor responded, “Why, to the conversion of that convict.”

“But I was not referring to him. I was thinking of myself,” explained the judge.

Surprised, the pastor replied, “You were thinking of yourself? I don’t understand.”

“Yes,” the judge went on. “It was natural for the burglar to respond to God’s grace when he came out of jail. His life was nothing but a desperate history of crime, and when he saw the Savior he knew there was salvation and hope and joy for him. He understood how much he needed that help.

“But I . . . I was taught from earliest infancy to be a gentleman — that my word was my bond, that I was to say my prayers, go to church, receive Communion. I went up to Oxford, took my degrees, was called to the bar, and eventually ascended to judge. My friend, it was God’s grace that drew me; it was God’s grace that opened my heart to receive Christ. I’m a greater miracle of his grace.”
--Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount (Crossway, 2001), 23-24

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