Why some are afraid of Grace
Let me state for the record that after my conversion at about 16 I was a card carrying, biblically fully immersed, four spiritual laws believing, Evangelical.
From that moment on my life was a tragic re-enactment of the book of Judges – One moment I was God’s best friend, hours of devotion, Bible reading and prayer. The next I was, to use a well known phrase of the time ‘backslidden’. I would, like the prodigal son, come to my senses and head off to the Father. There I would repent and all would be well again (minus one fatted calf) ………. until the next time, and the next and the next. I just couldn’t live in the ‘Victory‘ that everyone else seemed to be living in. (only later did I find out that they were struggling too but no one told anyone else)
Hey let me add a quick aside – There are genuine Christian folk who have had radical life changing experiences of knowing God and have for years lived in that relationship. I honour you for you example. However not all of us had that experience.
To continue …..
I suffered for years it was like a spiritual roller coaster after a heavy meal and two chocolate puddings with ice cream – it was never going to end pretty.
I never knew that there was an alternative – Grace.
Let me explain.
One day I began wonder ‘what if making disciples had nothing to do with saving people but rather was a growing into an understanding of a salvation you had already received but didn’t know about and/or understand?’
Now thoughts like that did not fit easily into my evangelical thinking. What if the church found out I was thinking heresy?
But the thoughts went on ….
I wondered when it was that we as humans first developed the idea of tribes, of the categorising people into groups, distinct from each other.
The moment you have distinct groups you have ‘them’ and ‘us’ and ultimately an ‘in and out’ friend or foe.
Much of the debate in evangelical circles ever since I was that annoying 16 year old was about who is in and who is out.
Of course those who know they are in are desperate that those who are out might come in and they spend millions of pounds and endless hours of effort to convince the out to come in. Sadly however (according to the religious police) facts are facts and Biblical ‘TRUTH’ is Biblical ‘TRUTH’ and if you are still out at the end (of your life or time itself, whichever comes soonest) then you won’t be in and will very defiantly be out. (But, and here is the good news, you will not be out in the cold!)
It seems to me that this is a form of Old Testament Christianity. By that I don’t mean a Christianity based on works (although that does seem to exist as well) but rather one that is a system of in vs out.
Israel in the OT was called to be a blessing to the nations but became isolationist and inward looking. This was a trait that was confronted and condemned by the prophets, yet now is reincarnated in evangelical Christianity. Israel’s task was not to make all nations a part of Israel but to point all nations to God.
There are those of us that in all honestly have come to believe that in Jesus the whole in vs out argument was abolished. Jesus in his life and words loved and declared in those that the religious establishment declared out. As Paul says there are no longer distinctions and divisions, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female, rich or poor (and whilst we are on the subject, no black or white, conservative radical evangelical or liberal, straight or gay etc) literally no in or out we are all in Christ.
That is not to say you are not black or white but just in God’s economy it doesn’t figure. As Paul argues ‘as we were all once in Adam so we are all now in Christ’. Once we were, now we are not, simples.
Ah did you hear that shout? That was a cry of angst by many in the church.
‘If’ they ask ‘we are all in what is the point of evangelism, won’t people just do as they like and sin and sin and sin, sex drugs and rock-n-roll (oh you mean like ordinary Christians?) What about ‘HOLINESS’ and ‘JUDGEMENT’’ ?
Sorry, Jesus took care of all that. You see the apostle Paul argues the same point, ‘what then, should sin abound that grace abounds all the more?’ his answer is no, why no? Because of the one thing so many talk about but don’t appreciate, the love of God and the indwelling of his Spirit or GRACE.
You see God’s love is greater and stronger than we realise. When people come to understand that God has included them, an amazing thing happens, they begin to change, they begin to act and sound like Jesus.
Another quick aside – note I said they become like Jesus – that is loving, caring, compassionate. You can be who you are and be like Jesus, be a disciple without having to jump through hoops. I have to say this because some of my church friends like to add that my LGBT friends have to change to be disciples or when they come to know Jesus they will change – Nope, sorry not true.
I digress …..
They become ‘disciples’. Paul says ‘the love of God constrains me’. That why I am not afraid of proclaiming limitless Grace – because Jesus did. ‘How many times should I forgive my brother, as many as seven times?’ Jesus answer no 70 x 7 (oh great 490 times- doh) – forgive without limit. And who can forget ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you.’ I can only assume that Jesus asks no more of us than he is willing to do. ‘Whilst we were still sinners Christ died for us’.
Life in all its abundance, as Jesus promised is as I read it, when we come to understand God’s Grace. That’s what discipleship is, coming to understand what you are, not making you anything and certainly not saving you.
Even if we never understand it, or get the chance to hear about it then we are all still recipients of Grace regardless. Jesus came into the world not to condemn but to save! This is really going to piss off Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins to name but two because they are included.
This Grace scares the hell out of many because we want judgement!
What do we want? ‘Judgement’ – When do we want it? ‘now would be good but certainly at the end’.
We want bad people punished; forgetting of course that we are the bad people (read the sermon on the mount). Jesus puts the bar so high that frankly it’s out of sight and certainly out of reach. Jesus says the problem is the human heart and as far as I remember from biology we all have one of those. (yes I know he was speaking spiritually but the same applies).
We want to start our argument from those who will be judged not who will be saved. Those who are out rather than those who are in.
Many Christians are afraid of this grace because it is an unfettered immigration policy.
“Don’t you realise all will come in?” There is a cry ‘they must accept Jesus’, why? Genuinely, ‘why’? You see Jesus has already accepted them. Extravagant Grace takes away our perceived privileged position.
There are so many people out there who don’t want to ‘accept’ Jesus. They don’t want to put their hands up in a service, go the front be invited to your church. They don’t want to be a statistic on your spread sheet, don’t want to wear an ‘I accepted Jesus T-Shirt’. They want to know Jesus! There is a world of difference between accepting and knowing. I know a good many Christians who tell me they have accepted Jesus but I honestly wonder if they have ever met him.
I love the OT story of the lepers outside the besieged city who realise the enemy has fled, they, the outcasts are in possession of the best life giving news ever, there is food – but wait, the healthy people in the city were really unfriendly before and excluded them – what to do? They tell the city, the enemy is defeated come and live, no demands just come and eat.
And that is the point of evangelism it is really gospel (the word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’), good news to all, everyone everywhere – I love to tell people they are in. They want to know if they should be religious (hell no) if they should pray, or go to church or be more honest (or just honest) or to love more, and I say not unless you want to, that won’t make you anymore accepted by God, just know God loves you, and then ….. and then, they find want to go to church (ok so after going once many are put off from ever going again) , they start praying and start loving more, they even read their bibles!! Or not – it’s ok – I am not God’s policeman, I trust his love and grace.
It really is good news for all not just for some. Jesus really is awesomely good news.
I know straight Christians who have addictions, are cheating on their partners and have unimaginable problems, LGBT Christians who have brilliant lives and who are making a huge difference but I also know LGBT Christians who have the same problems (surprise surprise) as their straight friends. I know Christians who get up before they go to bed to read their bible and Christians who can’t remember where their Bible is. Christians who go to every worship service and conference and sensible people who don’t mind which church they don’t go to and all of them are saved by grace.
I have friends and family who would never in a million years say they are Christian (even if they have heard the words) but who are not outside of the Grace of God, they just don’t know it – until they are told – what an awesome surprise they have waiting I just wish they knew it now.
People who will never ever, ever hear the good news of Jesus in a way that makes sense and yet God will welcome in. Why am I a missionary – to tell people that God loves them not excludes them – I want them to know Jesus as a friend not a stranger.
I am well aware that there are texts about sheep and goats, wheat and tares, judgment etc. but hey I think I have an answer but I might have to write a book. For now I am happier in my love of God than I have ever been – I still fail miserably and often but I don’t beat myself up over it, I am not, nor ever will be a good example of religious political or moral correctness but … I know God is at work in me and he loves me unconditionally.
I just want to put out a plea to those of you who the religious gate keepers, who have said there are the visa requirements – I have found an unbelievably wide narrow gate with no border controls or extradition.
Jesus genuinely loves the you who you are even if you never change !!
So there are those who will see me as apostate and destined for judgement and hell, my response ……..
God loves you too, see you in heaven. 🙂
Lots of love Simon