I keep coming across thought-provoking pieces about grace that connect with our series at Trinity CRC. My colleague Jacob Boer’s reflections are especially helpful and inspiring. I’m posting them here with his kind permission.
When I read through Scripture, grace shows up as the big theme in God’s relationship with us: forgiveness that we don’t deserve and cannot earn along with adoption into a world- and life-changing family. Yet as I read through Facebook, Christian magazines, and Christian blogs, I wonder why grace is so often missing in our relationships with the world around us and with each other in the Christian family. What worries me the most is how ungracious behaviour within the church is justified: “We’re in a culture war,” “We need to stand up for what is right and denounce evil,” “We need to protect the Christian faith which is under attack from government, society,” or whatever opponent you might choose to fit in here.
Strong language that separates people into “us” and “them” is used so often, especially in the debates concerning sexuality issues. The debate about gay and lesbian Christians in the church has seldom been grace-filled with a concern for those who are trying to figure out how to be gay and Christian. We’re slow to walk together in love. Then there is the area of politics where faith and politics get mixed together in strange and unhealthy and graceless ways where doubt is cast on an opponent’s faith simply because of the way they see how society might be better than it is now. Too often we create gods and demons rather than see people trying to figure out faith, God, church, and life. Where has the grace gone that invites people into a closer relationship with God, that models the love of neighbour and God?
I’m not saying we cannot believe in right and wrong: There are right and wrong ways of living according to the Bible; there are right and wrongs ways of relating to God. But I am saying we need to be much more humble and aware of our own brokenness and sin first and perhaps we will be more quick to offer grace as a starting point in a relationship rather than fear or anger. If our starting points are our differences, how can we get to the place where we recognize each other as image bearers of God, sons and daughters of the king, and the bride of the bridegroom?
Our example of how to speak and relate to each other, no matter our differences, is Jesus. His harshest words were for the “most righteous” because of their lack of grace. Jesus lived out grace by being among the disgraced and sinners, inviting them to follow him.
The story of the woman caught in adultery has asterisks around it because it’s not in the earliest manuscripts, but I believe the story made it into the Bible because it shows grace and how to address sin with grace. Jesus protects the woman from the most righteous of the righteous, picks her up from the ground, tells her he does not condemn her, and then says, “Now go and sin no more.” This is grace. May we learn to be more grace-filled followers of Jesus.