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 friendly, 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 indicates 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 can apply in a negative way as well. A person who judges is being judged by the same standard with which they judge (Matthew 7:1). 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 can you experience your forgiveness unless you forgive. You can’t receive mercy and withhold it from 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 to others 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 received grace in any form. You can’t have one without the other.
It even works for love. John says we love, because God first loved 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 forever tied together.
In-n-out love. In-n-out grace. In-n-out mercy. If you have one, you have the other; and you can’t say you have one when you don’t show any evidence of the other. It’s a good way to check and see if you truly have these gifts alive in your life.
All this talk about In-N-Out makes me want to go to one. Except that, after all this, those darn In-N-Out burgers will never be the same.