I have been reading a book by Philip Yancey “What’s so amazing about grace?” and it has given me a lot to think about my way of thinking of certain people. The one thing I know the Church of God has to offer which one is not supposed to find elsewhere is unconditional love. It made me wonder how much of this we still have to offer. Have we lost it? How does the church respond when faced with people who “fall short”? How do I respond to other people’s failures?
I heard a story about a thanksgiving Sunday in a certain church in London where a man boldly but remorsefully stood before the congregation to ask the church to forgive him for sexual sins committed with a young girl. The man stated that he had repented and asked God for forgiveness but he realised that he had to ask the church too. This man confessed his sin before his church and asked for forgiveness on his knees and the congregation (or most of them) listened with compassion clearly and boldly written all over their faces. I have been attending church for about 7 years now and though it is not a very long time, I have never seen anything like that. Not only so, I have seldom responded this way to those within or without the church. My focus has often been more on the problem that the person.
This man, had the courage to do what he did because he must have known that his brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers would not crucify him. He must also have known that he had the support of this family on his journey to wholeness and restoration. How many of us are bold enough to do this? Or should I say how many of us in this man’s place could confidently do same reassured that our local church family would respond in love? More important, I wondered if I would have responded with love and compassion.
I feel strongly that there is a part of me would not have been pleased with this man. My judgement may have gone along this line: “How disgusting! She is young enough to be your child! How would you feel were she yours?!” I wonder how gracious the Church truly is. If we cannot find healing, help, solutions and above all love in the church, what is left?
This man’s story reminds me of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus told the Pharisees who brought her to him and I paraphrase “If you are innocent yourself, please feel free to lead the execution.” Ofcourse none could do this. If I were there, I would be one of first to slowly turn and walk away as inconspicuously as possible and possibly very red in the face with the guilt of my own unrighteousness.
What about the couple choosing to go through with a divorce. I would probably say “Erm, you should work it out!…There is always a way out apart from divorce… Covenant! You are breaking the Covenant! How can you now change your minds?…I know that the Father hates it.” So must I hate the people involved as well? What about excommunicating them and treating them like the worst thing after the Devil’s agents? I think not that Christ would do this. Oh you can feel His genuine love, concern and interest in the well-being of the Samaritan lady who had gone through 5 marriages and had then settled for co-habiting. I wonder if I could extend the same grace. I don’t remember where He rubbed the law in this woman’s face.
And this one rocks me the most: homosexuality. I know I squeeze my face – at least within me when I see public display of affection by same sex lovers or partners. “Eeew! Sodomites! How do you do that?” says my self-righteous self. How we tend to treat these folks possibly with less grace than we treat adulterers and fornicators even though they are in the same category of sexual sins. What is sadder is realising how much of my face wrinkling is directed towards the sin rather than the people – regrettably very little.
Grace hates the sin but loves the sinner irrespective of how great the sin may be. Grace offers support to the person who is already struggling with their weakness. Every one of us has an issue or two… I love this saying from a friend and I have modified it for my own use and I am loving saying it: “I have issues. You have issues. We all have issues.” So relax and refrain from pointing fingers and watch the wrinkles. Your issue stains you as much as mine does me. Whether yours be ‘more acceptable’ than mine or vice versa. Yours may not be as open to the public as mine however that does not excuse either one of us from “Pursue…holiness without which none will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14. More so it does not exclude us from “Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12
I must add that it is not OK to be comfortable with sin in our lives. Sin is always an act of disobedience toward God and unacceptable especially in the life of anyone who names himself after God. So I am definitely not advocating acceptance of what God’s word clearly denounces. Rather than focus on the problem, I am learning to offer support and to love just as He does me. We must call sin what it is- “Sin” however we must love always the person especially as we know we are all in the struggle together. This is not limited to Christians only – Jesus showed love to His disciples as well as the tax collector and prostitute. Above all I am beginning to understand better that the one who is able to love others irrespective of their issues is most likely the one who has come face to face with their own shortcomings and is grateful to the perfect God who loves them irrespective of and supports them during the regular seasons of weakness. Let us show love. That is what Jesus would do.
Grace be with you xx