About six months later, myself and another elder (Mike) were appointed to hold regional meetings in the area between Dallas and Fort Worth.
We were the only two pastors in our church who were evangelistic. We partnered well together. We thought alike and laughed a lot. We began holding regular Sunday meetings at a hotel conference center, not fancy, but ideal for us. Most of our meetings before had been in house churches or in school auditoriums. We had several hundred members in numerous house churches before we built a worship facility.
One Sunday, Charlie showed up. He had a dark-haired, Hispanic lady with him and a little girl. The lady, named Ada, looked about eight months pregnant. I assumed they were married.
Charlie couldn't wait to corner me after the meeting. "Pastor Ron, I need to ask you something," he began.
"Ada and I have been living together for seven years. She's about to have our second child. She won't marry me because she says I'll change. We like your church. But I need to ask you something important. Since we're living in sin, if we were to die tonight, would we go to hell?"
Well, this "honest sinner" was now talking to a new pastor, one who had seen the light. I ignored his question, laid down my Pharisaical measuring rod, and scooped up a pail of grace. I gave up my "right to be right" and instead I served him so he could receive mercy from God.
"Charlie, I'm not going to answer that question," I said.
"Instead, I'll help you two get married and make your relationship right before God."
I went on to say, "You get her to agree to talk to me. I'll explain to her what a covenant is. I'll tell her how she knows you already and in seven years you haven't changed. After that, I'm sure she'll marry you."
We soon talked, she agreed, and they got married the next week. My wife and I met with them at their home for an informal wedding ceremony. A couple from their neighborhood served as witnesses. He'd obtained the license already.
At the wedding, Charlie and Ada dressed up. He had combed his unruly blond hair and was wearing a new coat and tie. She was a raven beauty but bulging mightily--like a watermelon was stuffed under her dress. Their sweet little girl was poised prettily as she held some flowers.
"Pastor, that thing you and your wife did with wine and bread at your wedding, can we do that here?"
"You mean take communion? Sure! Do you have any wine here?"
"No, but we have some champagne."
"Do you have any unleavened bread?"
"No, but we have Ritz Crackers."
I performed their wedding vows, blessed them in the name of the Lord, and served them Holy Eucharist as man and wife with an inexpensive glass of champagne and a Ritz Cracker.
In my opinion, there has never been a better exchange of holy vows. I felt like Jesus must have felt when he changed the water into wine at the wedding of Cana.
Thirty years later (at the time of this writing) their marriage was still strong. They remain solid members of their church, happy in Jesus, thanks to the grace of God.
We need to re-examine the doctrine of grace. We need to look at how it has been misunderstood or cheapened. It really is priceless - God's Riches At Christ's Expense.
Ron Wood is a retired pastor and author in NWA. His book, Riches of God's Grace, is available on Amazon.com. Email: [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.