Grace is a pivotal word in Christianity. You hear it in sermons and songs. It’s written on bumper stickers and imbedded in church slogans. Yet, it’s the last thing that Christians are known for. If the world had to sum up Christians in one word, that word would be ‘judgmental’.
Wolves wearing sheep costumes have infiltrated our steeple-topped roofs. Who fell asleep? Why wasn’t someone keeping watch? More importantly, is there anyone who knows the truth so that the lie can be sifted?
Our congregations limit their biblical knowledge to what is coming from the pulpit on Sundays and propaganda that is put out there by celebrity Christians. The rebellious and revolutionary truth of the Gospel has been drowned out with opinions and superstitions. Most of my generation agree that not even Jesus would be the type of ‘Christian’ the church thinks he should be.
The general ‘believing’ population doesn’t know what the Bible actually says. It’s no wonder the culture is riddled with divisions and dissociations. Quarrels and gossip circulate like tornados in suburban cul-de-sacs. Most just want to walk away from the whole thing. The church is no longer offering spiritual meat and potatoes and that is what we’re looking for. Preachers seem to be more like motivational speakers or emotion manipulators. We’re not walking away because we’re not buying the Truth. We’re walking away because we’re not finding the Truth.
You can sit in your meeting places and discuss the problem until your pie charts turn into a membership recruitment carnival cake walk, but we’re not looking to be entertained. The old bells and whistles don’t work anymore. We live in an era when we can access the world by putting our fingertips to our iPhones. We are looking for something to satisfy the deep. We are looking for someone who knows what they’re talking about.
We know it’s not rule keeping that eases the hunger, we’ve been there and it’s not the key. Intents and purposes aside, the written and unwritten rules are more for our flesh than for our spirits. When all of our time is spent trying to adhere, we don’t take the time to get to know who God actually is. Our spirit remains hungry.
If someone is sacrificing Led Zeppelin in his iPod, dancing lessons with her best friends or the smooth taste of an expensive bottle of wine, it’s no wonder they’re so abusive to those who don’t. It would make anybody crabby to watch others ‘get away’ with behaviors you deem sinful. Therefore, you tisk and condemn. The practice of superstitious religion with the belief that you can lose your salvation by not getting the rules right is probably the thing that makes God’s enemy, Satan, most proud.
The free for all doesn’t work either. Years are going by and all of our living right experiments are coming up short on answers. However, ask anyone in the heat of their own personal ‘Get Mine Marathon’ and you won’t find the depth of satisfaction and meaning there, either. Every day brings more things to obtain. Therefore, it is absolutely impossible for a seeker-of-everything to be satisfied with ‘so far.’
Experience gives birth to knowledge and wisdom. A person knows nothing about a situation they’ve never been in. Obviously there is any number of things you would rather not experience, but still like to collect the experience’s lesson.
The Church is like a prominent family who fights to keep their good name. When an ugly occasion takes place, it is quickly whisked away and never talked about. Under rug swept. What if the tainted people under the rug knew something that the others didn’t? What if they knew the piece of the puzzle that made our faith make more sense? What an upheaval it would be if the outcasts of the religious elite were the one’s with the clarity of grace needed to preach the Gospel with the ‘X’ factor that is missing from professional Christianity. Wasn’t Jesus an outcast of the religious elite? Wasn’t he an upheaval? What if the religious ‘X’ factor wasn’t some external sparkle that everyone can coo over, but an internal searing of the soul by grace so aggressive and forgiveness so exhaustive that the recipient walks away from the spiritual brawl with a limp? What if the limp is the ‘X’ factor?
Who do you want preaching the message of Grace? The career Christian who stays in every Friday night playing Old Testament Bingo with his fourteen-year-old poorly socialized son? Or would you want to hear about grace from the ex-rock star who’s distracting tattoos testify to his length of journey? How about the alcoholic who is on his fifth try at being sober? Do you think the adulterous home-wrecker could have learned something in the fiery aftermath that could have taught her a thing or two about grace? Jesus cradles the broken sinners to his chest and his blood washes away their filth as they cry in his shirt.
Jesus’ life purpose was to save us from our sins. He was a friend and a teacher to those in the physical sense, but he is a savior for all in a spiritual sense. You can thank him for your new car and sweet puppy, you can submit your immoral co-workers to his attention, you can even ask him to bless your food. When was the last time you laid curled up in a fetal position knowing that he had every right to make you pay up for your disgusting behavior and he didn’t? He came and laid down next to you and stayed there until you were ready to get up. Then, while the memories of what you did shook your brain and lost your hope in the vertigo of facts, he held your hair when your stomach emptied itself.
Who knows that Jesus? Us sinners. We know him like that.
Isn’t it a twist to know that a life can become a direct parallel to scripture more as a sinner being nursed back to health in the secret places than as a moral victor in a vinyl suit smelling of microphone breath slapping ‘fives’ in the church corridors?
The sinner has lost her good name. The reputation she had in the world has dissolved as fast as baker’s sugar in the hot water of public disdain. Yet, as she loses her life as a successful righteous life owner, she finds her life as the beloved lamb who is being carried on the Shepherd’s shoulders all the way home.
The busy believer has a reputation in the world to uphold and an example to set. She is impenetrable by the real life circumstances because Christians, after all, are not supposed to be affected by the pains and sufferings of the world. People assume that something is wrong with their relationship with Jesus if they are.
Where is a crying and tortured people going to turn? Will it be the one who cannot identify with pain due to the continual denial or the one who carries the knowledge of tremendous spiritual suffering in his eyes? When you just want to cry into the night, ‘It hurts!’ who is going to understand that kind of groan?
We are Christians. We are people who carry the lamp and man the lighthouses. We’re not to be examples of lives that don’t need Jesus because we’ve gotten good at keeping the rules. We are to be examples that no matter how bad it gets, there is hope and it’s only because of what Jesus did that we can be okay.
‘You’re going to make it,’ they say. How do they know? Because they bear the scars that prove they were there.
Grace is the pivotal gift in the lives of human beings. We are people who have real lives and real aspirations. As a result of our human condition, we are also bruised and scarred by inevitable failure. Grace is not the free gift reserved for those who don’t need it. ‘Grace Is For Sinners.’