Lately I keep hearing about examples of limited grace and a lack of extended forgiveness.
NPR did a piece last week about a fundamentalist church congregation that likes to show up at funerals for gay soldiers and proclaim God's wrath on them and their families. They do this with signs that read things like God hates fags! and Thank God for another dead gay soldier. I just can't see Jesus taking this approach. ...Pharisees yes, Jesus no. I think Jesus would want to reach out to the grieving family and not make things even harder from them to be open to God's love and leadership in their lives by using some self-righteous, ham fisted and wrong headed witnessing tactics. These church folk say that the reason the US Armed Forces is currently experiencing casualties in the middle east is because America tolerates gays. So does this mean that the logic of their argument is, that if we got rid of all the gays tonight then tomorrow forward our armies would be invincible? Think McFly, think! Didn't Hiltler try this for his army with the Jews? Or was it the Ark of the Covenant I forget.
Recently I experienced a wonderful weekend of spiritual renewal led by an amazing Spirit-filled woman who's daily walk with God rivals that of the apostle Paul. Yet someone came to me after and suggested that because this woman was on the stout side body type wise, that this person felt her ministry was less valid. Overweight Christians (this would be the average America person including me) unite! WOW is this person missing God's point! Talk about the wrong focus! In I Samuel 16:7 it reads, The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” In saying it is finished Jesus was announcing to the world that the doing which was needed in order for salvation to happen had in truth been finally accomplished. Jesus did it so now it was done. Salvation was a done deal. There is nothing we need to do to experience it other than use our faith to bask in it and let it permeate us. That’s all.
Outside or inside? Shallow or deep?...where are we focused?
And then I have a dear friend currently struggling with God's forgiveness in his own life (who doesn't?).
We all wrestle with the works and grace issue, the doing and done thing. Some of us can't handle that God really loves us and we don't have to earn that love or merit God's forgiveness...in fact there is nothing we can be or do to earn these things. Others of us though receive God's gift of grace, but then once saved we go right back to what I call White Knuckle Christianity. WKC is when God saves us by grace and then we take over again and try to become a new person by pulling ourselves up by our own self-help boot straps.
Grace has saved me and now I must try harder to be better! Sound familar? Dr. Henry Cloud of Boundaries fame asks us to think who are we, the person riding in the ambulance or the driver of it?
So here's my parting thought on the lack of forgiveness we show others and ourselves and the limited amounts of grace we seem to despense to the same:
…Not do, but be.
…Be inside the done.
As theologian Karl Barth says,
In His death He exercised judgment according to His wonderful righteousness, and He did so once and for all for the sins of all men. Is not the result of this just judgment mercy and forgiveness for all? Who, then, is not included? Which category of particularly great sinners is exempted from the pardon effected on the basis of the death penalty carried out at
Amen brother Barth.