Monday, July 13, 2015

Do We Really Believe in Grace?

I read again yesterday (and I see tweets with similar messages almost daily) that we need new leadership in our nation if we are to return to being a Christian nation. It makes me laugh to think that anyone still believes that changing politicians has any effect on that issue. I long ago came to the realization that anyone who thinks that USAmerica is a Christian nation is fooling themselves. I am not the first to say this; others have long held that we are a non-Christian nation. Depending on their point of view, they point to things like illegal wars, legalized abortion, R-rated movies, an unwillingness to take care of the poor and under-resourced, sexual immorality and a Democratic president as signs that we have abandoned God. I am not going to discuss or even consider any of those points today. You see, I think we are way beyond being non-Christian. I think we are Anti-Jesus at the core of our culture, and here's why- we don't really believe in grace.

Grace is at the heart of the teachings of Christ. Every other religion in the world is based on people trying to "earn" their way into the presence of their god. It's all about what you can do, about living your life by the religious law. Religion is about man's search for a deity. Christianity is based on what Jesus has already done for us. It is about God's search for us. If we confess, repent, and bow to Jesus as Lord and Savior, then our sins are forever forgiven. In fact, they are forgotten. And this is true everyday of our lives. With Jesus, whatever we have done in our past, be it good or evil, is irrelevant to God today. It is only NOW that we are in the presence of God. And it is now, because of grace, that we are forgiven- yet again.

The culture we live in, however, has little concept of grace. There are plenty of individuals who understand and offer grace; I have seen them first hand in my own life. But in our culture, they are seriously outnumbered. People who fail, people who sin, and people who make mistakes that have tragic consequences are people to be condemned and reminded of what they have done for the rest of their lives. They may confess and repent, but there will be no grace. They may even receive a second chance, but there will be no grace- because we will always remember. We love to remind people how they have failed and how we have "forgiven" them. Mike Foster, one of the founders of People of the Second Chance, says that we live in a "Vulture Culture." There is an entire wing of the media built around waiting for people to fail- and then it becomes must see TV. We can't wait to hear the stories. In our society, we are never free of our transgressions. Someone will always be there to remind us. With Jesus, we are free everyday- "and he who the Son sets free is free indeed!"  

Stop me if you have heard this before, but I am a sinner, and unless Jesus is reading this today, so are you! As the brilliant theologian and musician Michael Card wrote,"I belong to Jesus, and I realize that He loves me- a ragamuffin like me!- just as I am and not as I should be." Confess your sins to your neighbors and see how many of them would love you "just as you are."  We, as a culture, are all about people getting what they deserve. And Jesus, as a Savior, is all about people NEVER getting what they deserve! No matter what our sins may be. Brennan Manning wrote in The Ragamuffin Gospel"The sinners to whom Jesus directed his messianic ministry were not those who skipped morning devotions or Sunday church. His ministry was to those whom society considered real sinners. They had done nothing to merit salvation. Yet they opened themselves up to the gift that was offered them. On the other hand, the self-righteous placed their trust in the works of the Law and closed their hearts to the message of grace." Grace defines our relationship with Christ, but I cannot find it many places in our culture. Even our churches often reject those who are considered to be "notorious sinners"- when that is EXACTLY the group with whom Jesus hung out. If we find grace, the "tent pole" of our faith, to be a foreign concept, how can we be anything but Anti-Jesus? Not because we deny the Nazarene, but because we just don't get it!

I have come to grips with the fact that the world I live in will continue to punish and seek revenge against us when we fail and when we fall, but that does not mean I cannot do better. Society will continue to remind me of my sins long after I confess and repent of them, but I must be a messenger of grace to a hurting world. Our culture will continue to throw stones and misinterpret the teachings of Jesus. All I can do is try to show love, compassion, forgiveness and grace to each person with whom I come in contact each day, and demonstrate this truth-  because of grace I walk everyday with a Savior who loves me just as I am...and what could be better than that?

Because of Jesus,

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