I heard a story about a pastor who is teaching a series on Galatians. Galatians is all about grace. It’s a thin line of faith. It’s a narrow walk of trust not a narrow walk of rules. Galatians spells out, among others, a message that following a set of rules is a rejection of grace. As one man puts it (can’t remember his name) “No grace for you.” You cannot achieve, by your actions, what only Jesus and His grace can give.
This pastor is experiencing the biggest lash out of his career. People are angry about grace and worried about what that message teaches their children. “You’re making it sound like my kids can do whatever they want,” they say. But, he’s preaching scriptures, not his own thoughts. Our own thoughts want to balance grace with the law, but that only neutralizes grace and ends up being watered down to lukewarm God-spit.
If I were preaching that old message, no one would be offended if I mentioned the Cross now and then—it would be so watered-down it wouldn’t matter one way or the other. -Galatians 5:11 MSG
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. -Revelation 3:16
Grace makes people angry. People who have invested so much of themselves to getting it right are turned off by the thought that the less moral can get in with Jesus, too. They’re angry because they’re learning that they’ve been on the wrong track this entire time. I’m thinking, then, that this pastor should have been preaching grace a lot sooner. The Gospel divides people. It divides the sheep from the wolves.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” -Jesus in John 10:1-5 ESV
If you do not enter the church through Jesus and His grace, then you are a soul thief. You got in for some other reason and you are leading people astray. You do not like the implications of grace for life or for sinners. You push sinners out and try to keep your little community free from the ‘ragamuffins’. You are a robber. You keep the gate shut and locked. You do not offer or experience freedom. You are oppressive.
If you do enter through Jesus and His grace, then you are one of His. You open Jesus, who is the gate, and leave it open. You let everyone walk around freely. You follow Jesus because you know His voice. All those who don’t follow were never His in the first place.
You know your leaders by their relationship to the Gate. Is it locked or is it open? Can people get to the cross of grace or have you put stipulations in the way? There are those who will not understand this because they do not recognize the voice of Jesus.
The Gospel divides people, like a sword. It’s the best news to the least worthy. I would rather be in company with the least worthy than the self-righteous.
To this pastor and anybody else in the same boat: Stick with it. Use your platform to call men and women to the grace of Jesus. Let the others go. If they come back, at least they know what they’re coming back to. It might be their first taste of salvation and freedom from slavery. Remember, there is such a thing as spiritual Stockholm Syndrome.
A hired hand runs when the wolf comes. This pastor is not running. He’s following the Masters voice.
“When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors!” -Matthew 10:23 MSG