Posts tagged GRACE
Posts tagged GRACE
Westboro Baptist Church is protesting at my University this weekend. They are arriving at our football game to picket against American obsession and idolatry of sports, and to protest Baylor as an institution bearing the title of “Baptist” and “Christian.” You can read more about that here, but this post is actually not really directly related to them.
Instead, I want to talk about the appropriate response to such hatred.
First, I will say my response. I was surprised, firstly, that they would waste their time to come down here. Floyd Casey stadium is huge, and 70 people there picketing at the last home game of the season will make very little difference. However, when I read their website, I was infuriated.
I think what infuriated me the most was that there was a shred of truth to some of the things they said. I would agree, Americans do care about football more than God… as well as television in general, fast food, pretty cars, pretty girls and guys, the stock market, the next election, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. Man always sets idols in his heart, the chief idol being himself. This is not unique to America, this is humanity, and this is what led humans to take the apple—the thought of themselves being like or above God.
I would even agree, to an extent, that Baylor does not teach much Scripture. But to say we don’t teach it at all is just hilarious. Someone did not do their homework. All students are required to take Christian Scriptures, Heritage, and Chapel courses along with their degree requirements. Make no mistake, Baylor has its flaws as an institution and possibly even some flaws theologically throughout, but on the whole, Baylor has deeply strengthened and enriched my faith in God because of its roots in Scripture and in Christ. Which leads me to address the Baylor students next.
My friends, my peers and my colleagues, we must do better in representing Christ. I say we, because I chiefly must do better in this. We go to a very expensive University and just outside our walls is one of the poorest cities in the state of Texas and in the United States. How often is Baylor charged and commended for lovingly radically? for feeding the homeless? for enacting change in the community and for giving more than we can spare? We have our projects and community service acts, sure, but I would challenge and commend us to delve further in. We can build relationships with the people of our city, with our hometowns, and with the world. We have the intelligence and the compassion for this. We lack only action.
All of this being said, I encourage and challenge everyone to examine their own hearts. When Westboro brought these things up, did we respond in anger and hate and indignation? Or with compassion and grace? Remember, there is grace for all sins, even those of pride and slandar and wrath. God’s grace isn’t limited just to those who sin like we do, but it covers the sins of the world and breaks the shame that comes with it. I do not agree with their message; I do not agree with their methods. What I do agree with is this: Christ loved the world so amazingly and incredibly that He shed His blood for us—and Westboro is included in that, yes. They are people worth the very blood of God and they should be treated exactly as such, for only His scandalous love can break the bondage of violence and hate.
Now, for my non-Christian friends and readers…
I’m sorry. I’m sorry that Christians so badly represent Christ. We are all so broken, you see. The church is the hospital for the sick sinners, not a holy hill for saints. That being said, we mess up so badly. I do not think Westboro’s actions are Christ-like at all. And all I really will say about them is this: They are the VERY vocal minority. And by minority, I mean their congregation only has around 70 members and almost all of them belong to the Reverend’s own family. Do not let the ideas of one extremist family influence your ideas about Christ.
The truth is, people say they love the message of a loving God and a free Salvation, but they don’t actually know what to do with it when they have it. They take His love and think, “This is penomenal! Just what my heart desired… but, wait… I didn’t earn this? Oh, now I am ashamed. I remember all of the junk I did that says that I should NOT have this. Well, maybe I’ll try and earn it. I’ll set this love down on the table here, and I’ll do all the right things again. But, to hide my own shame, I have to point out that everyone else messes up, too. That’ll distract me from myself. If I’m always looking outward, I’ll never have to look inward.” The problem with this is, of course, that the crazy gift of love remains on the table unopened and unused, and soon we’ve forgotten about Christ altogether and everything suddenly becomes about us again.
Here’s the gospel: YES! We’ve messed up. We don’t deserve God, and we can never earn Him. But oh, how He loves us! So He comes to us undeserved and unexpectedly and accepts us for who we are—flaws and all. Please, I beg you, take this love and let it change you from the inside out. It will change everything—how you view yourself and especially how you view others. The gospel is not about getting all of the rules right and picketing against those getting it wrong, it’s not about hate, it’s not about bigotry, it’s not about how you’ve messed up and you’re on your way to hell. It’s about Christ, and it’s about how deeply and desperately He loves you.
I hope that’s the message you walk away with, and I hope that that truth speaks louder than any amount of hurtful words to the contrary.
Just because your heart is broken that does not mean it is beyond repair. You’re never too far gone.
This was said on Facebook today… and I think my heart broke a little.
Let’s do an experiment here. Let’s replace some words in this sentence and see how the meaning may change for some people.
Shall I go on?
If you related with any one of these, then you and I are in the same boat. I can’t technically be a “Bible-believing Christian” by such a definition and implication because I have failed. I cannot live up to the law.
Here’s the thing though: It’s not about you. I know, hard to hear, but it’s true. The Bible is not about you. It’s about Christ. It’s about what He did. Not you. It’s about how He fulfilled the law. Not you. Not you and not me. The law serves as our mirror. We can look at it and look at the Bible and say, “Wow. I have messed up big time.” But the Bible is not even about the law—it’s about Christ. It’s about Him and His radical, crazy, amazing, game-changing, life-altering Grace.
When are we going to start getting it, Christians? It’s all about CHRIST. How long will we be content with skirting around the issue? We’ll keep making excuses, keep saying… you can’t do this and be a Christian… this is how it is… that’s unbiblical… that’s against the law…
Let me tell you, that’s what the Pharisees did…and hardly anyone was further from Christ than they were.
Here’s the thing: I used to be crazy, legalistic, and super into theology and apologetics and all of this mess, and I never reached anyone during that time of my life. I was, in every sense of the word, a Pharisee. One day, I woke up and realized it was all about Jesus. It was all about His love and grace. I didn’t need tricky theology and apologetics because it was simple:
I messed up. Big time. Christ loved me, and He did ALL of the work for me. After I grasped that, I loved Him, too. Slowly, surely, I loved Him more every day, and I started even doing the “right” things and fulfilling the law more than I ever did before… not because it was the right thing to do, not because I had to or even tried, but because I loved Him so much, and He loved me. With time, my heart became more like His own. Let me tell you, if a wretch like me can be redeemed, anyone can.
So if you’re still confused about how someone like me can be a Christian, I’ll tell you how: The grace and love of Jesus Christ and nothing else.
I have noticed recently that a lot of Christians do very little of talking about Christ. We like to talk about Christianity, but not Christ. I don’t think Christians are just guilty of this, but everyone is really. People who don’t believe like to pick out certain scriptures or things they have problems with and bring them to light. People who do believe sometimes like to pick out verses that make them look good… Ones that don’t deal with the sins that they struggle with, or the issues that they don’t understand. And everyone likes to pick out the flowery, pretty verses—the ones about loving your neighbor and helping those in need and finding joy in sorrow… All of the feel-good things.
It’s as if God has given us this great gift, but we’re content with being distracted by the wrapping. We turn the package over in our hands—it’s shaped funny, and we try to guess what might be inside. We don’t like the pattern on the paper here, but we like the little bow there. Oh, and we’re uncomfortable to whom it is addressed: The Undeserving, but Deeply Loved Sinner. Well, that sounds like me, but I’m not so sure that I like that description all the same. All the while, I imagine Jesus standing on the side simply begging, “Just open it! Then you will actually see what’s inside and what is at the heart!”
I think that truthfully, we’re afraid to open the package. We’re afraid because we know what’s inside already. We know it is a cross, one meant for ourselves, but taken by someone else. We know it is grace. We didn’t earn this at all. We hate being told we are “bad” or “wrong,” and we especially hate being told that we’re loved despite all of that. No matter how much we may deny it, we like to earn and deserve what we have. Nothing makes us feel more ashamed and humiliated than grace… and yet, nothing can make us feel more proud and beautiful at the same time. We’re afraid to open the package because we know that truly encountering Christ means encountering change. We’ve reached a critical point and a crossroads now where we can only go down one of two paths… We can first, ignore the gift and let our hearts be hardened, or second, we can accept the gift with admiration and joy. We can let that gift of grace and love begin to peel back all of the layers of ourselves that we put up around our hearts.
Timothy Keller describes accepting grace in his book, The Reason for God, in this way: He says that the outsider sees grace in Christianity as, essentially, a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” We’ve been forgiven and we didn’t earn it. Great! We can do whatever we want. Keller says that someone who has actually been on the inside of grace—someone who has opened the package, if you will—could never actually say something like that. It’s like when you fall in love with someone. You ask them on a date, ask them to be your boyfriend or girlfriend, or perhaps you even ask them to be your spouse. If they say yes, no one in their right mind says, “Perfect! I’ve got them. I can do whatever I want.” That’s not how it works. The real work and the real change has just begun. You have their love, so now you want to display yours as your appreciation and gratitude for their great gift.
Let’s not be distracted by the wrappings of Christianity—the little issues and divisive battles in the churches and media and denominations. Let’s open this extraordinary gift of grace and really dig into the Gospel of Christ. It is frightening, yes, because to take such an action would undoubtedly change you in some way. But maybe the change is necessary. Let’s talk about Christ and let’s pray for a radical change in ourselves and in the world. And the truth is that we will never get to share this incredible gift and message of Christ with anyone else if we’re constantly offering them the bows and tags.
I’ve noticed that we always like to divide and categorize things. We see the world in black and white or as good and bad. We divide people the same way that we divide anything else.
We say that people are pretty or ugly. We say people are good or bad. Kind or cruel. Poor or rich. People belong to one church or another. They are either saved or lost.
The truth is that everyone has a little bit of all of these things in us. We are all beautiful with a whole lot of ugly; everyone has some kindness mixed in with the cruelty. Christians see themselves as saved and then immediately divide themselves: We’re separate from the lost and therefore so much better (Though, just yesterday we were lost ourselves).
The world divides us, but the Gospel unites us with one incredible message: There is only one kind of person, and that is the kind who is desperately in need of God. The saint needs just as much grace as the sinner. The Gospel is a great equalizer with a powerful message: Everyone has messed up, and everyone is incredibly loved by God anyway. This puts the rich on the same plane as the poor; the thief with the worker; the man with the woman; the elder with the younger; the joyous with the broken-hearted; and of course the sinner with the saint.
We all need grace so desperately, and we are all loved so incredibly. And why divide what God has united with His radical, amazing Grace? The greatest difference among people is this: Those that know this grace now, and those who don’t know it yet. I pray that we will strive to make it known to every single person just how much they are loved.
“God’s reckless grace is our greatest hope.” — Timothy Keller
Man can only be human, no matter how much we try to escape it, and God can only be God. He can only do divine and Godly things. I find it interesting that God in His Godliness decided that the most Godly thing that He could do was to become man for us…
— My friend Daniel. So amazing.