Friday, July 10, 2009

No Questions Asked

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him, for he knows how we are formed . . . (Psalm 103:13).

Last week I took my kids and two of their friends northward to experience the seething energies of the town of Cherry Log Georgia. Actually we were just north of Ellijay, not quite to Cherry Log. “What,” you might ask, “is in Cherry Log Georgia?” Not much. But there is a treasure up there, known to a few.

For years Fred Craddock taught preaching at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. When he retired he went north and began a ministry that does many different things under the umbrella of “The Craddock Center,” now headquartered in the booming metropolis of Cherry Log.

One of those things is the Story Express, a van full of books that makes forays into the mountain counties and gives books to children. That’s why I took my own kids, plus two, to Cherry Log. We had books for the Story Express. We also had the chance to receive visitors to the Express at the Gilmer County Food Bank. Kids could browse for books while their parents received groceries.

On the door of the Gilmer County Food bank I saw a small poster advertising free lunches during the week at a place called “Bread and Bowl.” The language of the poster caught my attention and evoked some thinking. It read something like this.

Lost your Job? Can’t pay bills? Worried about keeping your home?

We want to help during these difficult times.

We will be serving a FREE LUNCH every day from 12:00 noon to 1:30 pm


Psalm 103 rehearses the many ways that God is merciful to us. Those mercies come to us because of God’s compassion. The word compassion shows up three times in the NIV Bible, anchoring the center of the Psalm at verses 8 and 13.

The very word compassion carries the meaning of “suffering with” someone else, knowing what they are going through, entering into their experience and being moved to mercy.

I heard compassion in the words of the poster: “no questions asked.” When the Psalmist says that God forgives our sins and puts them as far from us as east is from west, I can almost see the words “no questions asked.” Of course, those words don’t appear in the Psalm, but they wouldn’t be out of place if they did.

There is an invitation in the words of Psalm. Our compassionate God receives us in our imperfect, flawed state. No questions asked; no need to offer explanations, no need to come up with excuses, no defense necessary.

This is strange to us. Silently, we do raise questions of others. Our own compassions fall far short of God’s. What’s more, many of us spend plenty of time explaining ourselves, making excuses, defending our actions or ideas. We expect to be grilled and questioned. But God doesn’t deal with us in that way.

God says, “No questions asked.” How does that impact how you will live today? And how would you be different if you were to say the same thing to others around you?

We give you thanks today, O God, for your great compassion; for the way you put our sins far from us. You know exactly what we are like and the weaknesses to which we are prone. Put them away from us, we pray, and make us bold to come to you freely, trusting in your great mercy. Amen.

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