He’s sitting on the front pew in church, right under the pastor’s nose. From my perch on the ramp that leads up to the balcony I can see him dead on, sitting there, Bible open, attention rapt. Week by week he is there, in the same spot, surrounded by the same people. I don’t know who they are; I narrow my gaze from afar to try to put the story of the past together. It’s none of my business, but I can’t help going back and re-visiting the saga of the past…even though it had nothing to do with me.
This man you see, broke up two families in our church some years ago, by his own selfish desire. Because there were children involved the ages of my kids, I found myself immersed in the unfortunate drama that hovered over our school and our church. The ugliness and brazenness of the affair made everyone uncomfortable and there was absolutely no remorse or attempt to hide the adulterous relationship. It was difficult to make eye contact with this individual when encountering him at church. I didn’t know the details of his life, but we had had some business dealings with him and I found him hard to ignore. I had heard remarks made from his scorned wife and exchanged few words with her after the ordeal. The whole situation made those around uneasy and for the past ten years, whenever I’d see this man or woman or hear their names, I’d think back to the sin they so openly displayed for all to see.
It’s hard to describe how I felt when I first noticed him sitting on the front pew in church. Maybe the best description would be “skeptical”. As weeks passed, I began to purposefully look for him sitting in his spot. It never failed, he was always there. Remarkably, my skepticism slowly turned into something more like “admiration”.
I have no idea what the man has been through in the past ten years. However, I do know where my own life has been, and I know where it’s been the years beyond that. I started to look around the church at all the souls I’ve known there the past 23 years. I saw friends of mine who were now alone after failed marriages; I saw widows and widowers who for many years sat with their spouse in the pews beside me, now unaccompanied. I saw people who had once been healthy, now fighting disease and illness. And I saw those like me, people who had been forgiven of sin. Christ died for me. He forgave all my trespasses, and there were many. In fact, there will most likely be many more. And what is beautiful about this is, He continues to forgive and offers me the promise of eternal life with Him. A lowly sinner like me, awarded eternity with the King of Kings. I am greatly humbled by this.
Now, finding this man on Sunday mornings on his front pew is part of my worship experience. Every time I see him, I am reminded of my own failings as a Christian and how the grace of God covers those sins. Once confessed and repented of, my transgressions are as far as the east is from the west and God remembers them no more. (Psalm 103:12) He remembers them no more. Can’t I at least extend the same grace to my fellow believer as my Savior did for me? We are but a breath in time, a moment, a twinkle. Why spend a minute of it harboring resentment or malicious thoughts toward one another? We are in this together, for a time, and the time is brief.