Hubert Humphrey’s funeral was held on January 16, 1978. Newsweek Magazine carried the story of the former vice-president’s memorial service. Hundreds of mourners from all over the world came to say good-bye to their friend and colleague.
One guest Humphrey invited before he died was initially shunned by everyone present. No one wanted to look at the man, much less speak to him. The shunned guest was Richard Nixon. The former president had endured the public humiliation of Watergate and had stepped down from the presidency four years earlier. This was the first time Nixon had returned to Washington since his resignation.
Something incredibly special happened at the funeral, perhaps the only thing which could have broken the ice for the humiliated former president. When the then current president, Jimmy Carter arrived he noticed Nixon standing off to one side alone. Carter at once greeted the disgraced leader and stuck out his hand. To everyone’s surprise, the two embraced and Carter said warmly, “Welcome home, Mr. President! Welcome home!”
Commenting on that moment, Newsweek observed, “If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion.”
Respected evangelist, Billy Graham, did something similar years later when he befriended the humiliated televangelist Jim Bakker after his release from prison. Graham and Carter, both committed Christians, showed kindness and grace to the two disgraced men. These respected leaders showed mercy when it was needed most, both were following Jesus’ example of loving those who did not deserve his love.
A central belief of Christianity is that Jesus, the world’s only perfect man, became the sacrifice for a sinful messed up world. The hope of Christianity is that although none of us deserve God’s grace, Jesus’ death makes it available to everyone. By dying for our sin Jesus demonstrated sin has consequences, but he voluntarily took those consequences on himself and made it possible for each of us to have a fresh start, no matter how undeserving we may be.
Scripture put it this way, “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (Romans 5:10-11, NLT)
According to the Bible no matter how far we have strayed from God, Jesus has made a way for us to return to the Father who is eager to welcome home every wanderer. Grace offers each of us hope despite the fact none of us deserve it.
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