Amazing Grace, Pt. 1
This past year, we in my church's men's bible study group went through the book of Leviticus, verse by verse, digging into the guts of it all. The intended purpose of it was to show the guidelines and expectations of men today in the home, church and community by looking at the roles of the priests and laws of Mosaic times. It did this, certainly. But just as strongly, I came away with two other important lessons. First was the significance of everything Jesus did for us when being tortured and crucified when looked at from the standpoint of Him being the Ultimate Sacrifice. But even more strongly impressed upon me was a greater appreciation of God's grace, that by which we are saved and forgiven through Jesus' Ultimate Sacrifice and how we should extend that same grace to each other.
My pastor posed a question a short time back when preaching on this subject. If you were arrested for something (DUI, soliciting a prostitute, caught in a drug bust), and your picture was plastered on the front page of the paper because of it, would you show your face in church the next Sunday? To me, the truly sad part is that this question would have to be asked in the first place. It seems like it should be a foregone conclusion that in a time of trouble, in a time when you need forgiveness, when you need grace, when you need to feel the support and love of your community, your congregation should be a place of refuge for you. To have people pray with you and over you. To let you know you are still loved. So why is that not the case?
You may remember Amy Grant, a talented and popular Christian singer from the late 70s and early 80s. I can remember being on youth group outings or at Church Camp and hearing El Shaddai, Sing Your Praise to the Lord, Fat Baby and other songs of hers always playing on someone's boom box. She sold out concerts all over the place. Countless numbers of people were led to Christ through her ministry. Then word came that she was divorcing her husband and collaborator, Gary Chapman. Adultery was thrown about as a posible reason. Instantly, church choirs and soloists stopped singing her songs. Christian radio stations stopped playing her music. You couldn't buy her tapes in Christian book stores any more. All because of what? She was human? She committed a sin?
Is this the way God works? Does he strip you of all His blessings when you stumble? Is this what Jesus taught us to do? Are we to turn the other cheek when an enemy smites us and give a theif our shirt when he takes our coat as well but ostracize our own Christian brothers and sisters for any offense?
Over the next few posts, I'd like to discuss the concepts of grace, forgiveness and how we are to treat those who have stumbled and how we do treat them. I'll be talking about such hot button issues as teen pregnancy, divorce, homosexuality, adultery, and even false accusations. Perhaps we should discuss how we are more willing to extend grace and community forgiveness to those who commit non-sexually based sins than those who do. I really hope those of you who read my blog will feel free to join in and share your viewpoints. I feel strongly on this issue and believe it has been placed on my heart to address it on whatever level I can, locally, nationally or even globally.
The long and short of it is this: The extention of grace from God to us or from us to each other is an expression of love. God grants us grace and forgiveness because He loves us. We should grant it to each other because God loves all of us and we are to love each other through God, even as we love ourselves. What enticement is there for someone who is unsaved to enter the fold of Christianity when they see how we can callously through our sick and wounded to the jackles?