Equalizing grace, how sweet the sound
by Amy Reardon, Captain –
“The people from the ‘home’ are here,” the corps officer said, and she scurried out of her husband’s office. My husband and I continued our conversation with the male half of the officer couple. I didn’t give much thought to the fact that people had arrived from a group home of some sort. That’s nothing new in the Army.
When the service started, I began to wonder if the people from “the home” comprehended any of the goings-on. It didn’t really matter, I thought, because they certainly were enjoying themselves. And I was enjoying them. As we sang a number of rousing choruses, a couple of them beat gleefully on the pews and clapped their hands wildly. They were so gleeful that it was infectious. It was unabashed worship, uninhibited praise. Joy began to fill my heart, and I could tell my husband was feeling it, too.
One of these exuberant men sat in the front pew on the opposite side of the chapel. I could see him well. He had dressed up for church, though his clothes were a bit crumpled and certainly not stylish. His hair was disheveled and he could have used a shave. Beside him sat the wife of the corps officer couple. She was highly presentable; exemplary, really. Her blonde hair was smooth, cradling her face at her chin. Her uniform was crisp and clean. Everything from head to toe seemed to be in place, just so.
It was announced that we would be singing “Amazing Grace,” and the officer turned with a gracious smile, this way and that, helping those near her—the people from “the home”—find the right page in the songbook.
Something about that scene made me think of the kingdom of God. I contrasted the unkempt man with the tidy officer, but quickly realized that the contrast was ridiculous. This was God’s house, the place where all are equal. Where all belong. No one is an object of pity—all have dignity here. The Salvation Army Vancouver, Washington, is one corner of the kingdom, and the corps officer made that clear by the way she treated those around her.
The man I was watching began to sing. I couldn’t decipher his sounds at first. I thought he was just warbling gibberish. But then I clearly heard it: “that saved a wretch like me!” And I realized that although he was about four bars behind the rest of the congregation, he was earnestly singing the right words. When the song finished, I heard him say, “Praise you, Jesus.”
One of the things I love best about going to church is hearing and seeing how God moves in the lives of others, getting a glimpse into their relationships with him. Every Christian’s praise reminds me of the glory of the God we share. And hearing my brother praise the name of Jesus like that reminded me that there are no disheveled men from the home, and no pristine, beautiful officers in God’s kingdom. There are only brothers and sisters. There is only you and me—completely equalized by grace. As Paul said, “There is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek…”