Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not what they do." And they divided His garments and cast lots. -Luke 23:27
Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. -Acts 7:60
We have an issue with grace in the Church in America. It seems that many would rather err on the side of the law of the Old Covenant than on the side of being radical in the grace of the New Covenant. Michael Brown, who I'm not extremely familiar with, wrote an article confronting what he calls "hyper-grace." It is a good article. It speaks the truth. We definitely need to keep in mind that our God is holy and that he has a very firm stance on sin, as I hope this blog has made clear throughout it's posts.
That said, as I wrote in an earlier post, so many in the Church in America are afraid that in using New Covenant means to confront sin they will be condoning sin. We tend to miss the balance. And, without a doubt, following the standard set by the law of the Old Covenant would be much, much easier in how we deal with the sin of others. There was a story I saw recently that defines this problem fairly well. The owner of a bakery in Oregon refuses to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding, citing that he would be in conflict with his religious beliefs if he did so. I think many Christians today would act in much the same way. It's ingrained in us that we have to "take a stand" against sin. We can't condemn, but neither can we condone. But would the owner of that bakery be condoning the sin of homosexuality by baking a cake for a same-sex marriage?
Let's look at ourselves and how God relates with us.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. -1 John 1:8
John isn't speaking of the world; he's speaking to the Church. We're works in progress. It is only through God's grace that we are offered redemption and salvation. That said, there is still sin in us. We're not perfect.
James makes a pretty sweeping statement about gifts.
Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. -James 1:17
Every blessing we receive is God-breathed. This verse even implies that the blessings for the unredeemed sinners are God-breathed as well. Is God condoning our sin by blessing us even though we sin? Is God saying he's "cool" with our sin because he blesses us even though we have sin? That is certainly blasphemy! So how can we claim that blessing another who has sin is consonant with condoning that sin? It's nonsense! We need to remove ourselves from that Old Covenant frame of mind. We're under a New Covenant! Our nation's biblical founding was steeped in Old Covenant theology as I've touched on here and here. Our reliance on that aspect of biblical thinking has trapped us in an Old Covenant mindset.
It is interesting that when those in the world act like jerks to the Church, we cry "persecution" despite our fairly disconnected concept of what persecution really is. The sad part is that we in the Church treat those in the world the same way. We act like self-righteous jerks. It's inevitable that we're going to make mistakes. It's inevitable that we're going to trample all over our Christ at times. But we need to take a look at ourselves honestly. When we make mistakes that ultimately serve no purpose but as a mockery of our Lord, we need to repent. We need to allow ourselves to be humbled. We need to let God change us into Christ's likeness.
So, regarding condoning sin, what would Jesus do?--as the old phrase goes. It's a silly question to ask when we can just as easily ask, "What did Jesus do?" and even better yet, "What does Jesus do?" He blessed and still blesses even though we have sin.
He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. -1 John 2:6
We need to do our best to act as Jesus did and still does. We have no right to refuse the light to those who are lost just because we disagree with what they do. Jesus was accused by the religious leaders of his day for befriending sinners. Surely, they were concerned that he was condoning sin. What side are we on? Are we on the side of Christ or on the side of religion? The purpose of the light is to quench the darkness. If we're not willing to shine the light, how will the darkness be quenched? To take a stand is to let the light shine.
The grace that Jesus and Stephen showed their killers is amazing. We need that grace to flow through us in America. While we're not being martyred here, the darkness is powerful and subtle. The world needs the light. Our lack of grace stifles the light. Let's let the light shine!
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