There is a chain of fast food burger stores that began in southern California, and so far has spread to Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Texas, called In-N-Out Burger. They are Chandler’s and my favorite fast food place. The nearest one is about a 20-minute drive and I will think nothing about going out there at nine or ten o’clock at night if we’re hungry. Their claim to fame is that they don’t cook ‘em up until you order ‘em. Plus they pile on the lettuce and tomatoes, and the fries are cut fresh from potatoes you can see stacked in the back of the kitchen. It’s a little longer wait than most other fast food places, but since each hamburger is made to order, it’s worth the wait. The kitchen is clean and in full view, the cooks and servers are all up-beat, and the choices are few: single or double hamburger, fountain drink, shakes and fries. That’s it. It’s been that way since the first store was founded in Baldwin Park, California, in 1948.

And there is an in-n-out principle that permeates the teachings of Jesus about the gifts of God like grace, mercy and forgiveness. It basically says that what comes in, to be legitimate and real, must go out. The two are so connected that one presumes the other, and you can always work it both ways. For instance, the best known of these qualities, because it is a part of the Lord’s prayer that most of us know by heart is: “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Notice it doesn’t say: forgive us and then we will go out and forgive others. It says “as we forgive,” which seems to indicate a simultaneous action. One presumes the other. A person who receives forgiveness will be forgiving. Likewise, a person who receives mercy will be, of necessity, a merciful person.

And it applies to other things as well. A person who judges is being judged by the same standard with which they judge. Right down to the golden rule: the way you treat others is the way you want to be treated.

They go together and they go both ways.

By the same token, you can’t say or think you have one without the other. You can’t forgive unless you’ve been forgiven; nor have you been forgiven unless you forgive. You can’t receive mercy and not give it to others; nor can you give mercy without having received it. You don’t know what it is until you receive it.

That’s why, here at the Catch, we say “grace turned outward.” There’s a lot being said about grace these days, and yet it is mostly only inward grace being talked about. We talk about how we have been saved by grace and not by works. But we don’t talk much about giving grace or being a gracious person, while the overwhelming weight of the scriptures would say that we can’t even talk about receiving grace if we can’t give it out. If we can’t give it, we haven’t received it. A gracious person has had grace bestowed upon them. They know all about grace. But a contentious or condemnatory person cannot turn around and claim that they have been saved by grace, because, by their attitudes and actions, they are clearly saying they have not receive grace in any form. You can’t have one without the other.

It even works for love. John says we love, because God loves us. He then says that a person who loves is obviously born of God, because that’s what being loved does: it makes you loving. Love in, means love out. Grace out, means grace in. Mercy in, means mercy out. Judgment out, means judgment in. Love out, means love in. You can switch them around because they are one and the same.

In-n-out love. In-n-out grace. In-n-out mercy. In-n-out forgiveness. If you have one, you have the other; and you can’t say you have one when you don’t have the other.

Those darn In-N-Out burgers will never be the same.

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8 Responses to IN-N-OUT GIFTS OF GOD

  1. Lisa in Sunland says:

    Love In-N-Out Burger, and hope to show in-n-out grace. And have you ever noticed the Bible verses on the bottom of their cups? And I think in some other places (burger wrappers?) too!

  2. Mark Seguin says:

    There’s an In-N-Burger chain here in Michigan, yet doesn’t sound like the same franchise chain out West.

  3. Andrew P. says:

    This reminds me of a lady of our acquaintance who is an inveterate legalist. It took me a long time to figure it out, but a few years ago I finally realized the root problem, and it’s very much like what you’re writing about today, John. I realized that she has not really received anything from God. You can’t give what you don’t have, and in the spiritual (or even emotional) realm, you only obtain by receiving. She really has received very little from the Lord. That isn’t to say that He isn’t offering her much, but she will not receive it. As a result, she has very little (mercy, that is) to share with others. ‘Tis a pity, and a waste. But I suspect we are all that way to some degree. Few, if any, of us really receive everything the Lord wishes to give us, so we all find situations where we have nothing to give.

  4. jesusgirl71 says:

    The hard part for me is figuring out how to receive that grade. How does one really receive it? I know this is probably sounding like a stupid question, but you’re right; it’s hard to give when you aren’t receiving. I know I don’t have that deep in my heart. Every time I try to grasp it, I run in circles. Don’t know if that makes sense.

    • jwfisch says:

      Mostly, I think, we receive the gifts of grace, mercy and forgiveness when we realize and embrace our sin and come humbly to God in agreeing with Him about our sinfulness and lo and behold we get all this good stuff back we don’t deserve!

  5. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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