Thursday, January 10, 2013

Intolerant Grace

Earlier this week, I wrote about being a people who aren't shaken by having a faith that shakes the world.  (See Unshakeable.)  Today, I want to talk a little more about what that looks like.

The answer is: intolerant grace.

It's easy to look at the ways this world is broken, the things that have had us shaking and turning away, the things that keep us on our toes when they should really be driving us to our knees and to conclude that the answer is to fall on the side of the righteous.  To stand and defend whichever side is obviously good, whichever side is innocent, whichever side is noble.

That's the easy answer, but it's not the real answer at all.  "Finding someone who would die for a godly person is rare.  Maybe someone would have the courage to die for a good person.  Christ died for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:7-8a)

You see, it's not enough.  It's possible to die for a good man - to stand with the innocent, stand up for the victims, stand against the perpetrator - but Christ goes beyond what is reasonably good.  Christ died for sinners, and He calls us to do the same.

We make a villain of a gunman who took his own madness out on a school full of innocent children.  We mourn with the families, pour out our love in memorials and teddy bears and promised prayers.  We cry out for gun control...or the lack thereof as your political leanings may be...and demand an answer.  This seems to us the right thing to do.  It is good, but it isn't grace.

We judge in our hearts and minds the guilt of the accused and determine that it's right to stand against a guilty man.  We condemn, as the outcry of voices is condemning, and we buy into the sensationalism that justice is justice.  Is it?  It's something.  For sure, it isn't grace.

Recently, I saw a minister friend post on Facebook in response to something he saw on bullying.  (Brother, I am not calling you out.  Ok, I am, but in love.)  He said these bullies ought to leave the other kid alone, that if they wanted to pick on somebody, they ought to pick on him.  (He's a reasonably big guy.)  Antagonizing the bully into greater bravado while standing in defense of the smaller innocent?  It's a noble response, but it isn't an answer.  It isn't grace.

If we are to be a people whose faith shakes the world, we have to be a people of intolerant grace.  Grace that refuses to settle for brokenness.  Anywhere.  In anyone.  In any way.

It's not the easy answer.  That's for sure.  It's not pretty.  It's really messy a lot of the time.  And it's not expected.  But if we are to be that people - that unshakeable, faith-founded people - who make this world tremble at the power of our God, then we have to embrace this intolerant grace.

We have to go beyond being people who would die for or side with a good man.  We have to be Christ to the sinners, too.

That means not scowling at our televisions when we see the gunman in the courtroom.  Instead, it means willingly putting ourselves in his story to respond to the measure of brokenness in him.  He is a broken man, too; you can see it in his eyes.  Do we write him off because he inflicted his brokenness on others?  We can't.  That would not be grace.

We watch the news and see a guilty man, and we rejoice in the "justice" before us.  But look beyond his conviction and find yours.  Is this "justice" just at all in light of the man's burden?  The best we offer here is punishment, not justice.  We should be offering grace.

To the bullies of the world - do we challenge them to step up their hatred, to step up their game?  Or should we go to them in the spirit of Christ and touch the wounded places in their lives?  Maybe they feel like they aren't good enough.  Or they aren't strong enough.  It is a challenge to their insecurity to tell them to step it up again and prove themselves again.  It is grace to hold their hands and show them their creation, show them God created them enough.

We stand with the wounded and with the wounder, because we recognize he is just as wounded as his victims.  We can make no room for stereotypes, public pressures, or judgments.

It's not politically correct, but then, grace never is.  But without this grace, what are we showing our world about our God?  Nothing that would make them tremble.  Nothing that would make them shake.

Who is in fear (or awe) for a God who only stands with the good guy?

Christ died while we were all still sinners, and He embraces the world with an intolerant grace.  A grace that won't stand for one broken heart to be denied healing, one wounded soul to be denied mercy, one single sinner to be denied God.

So that, too, we must be.  We must be a people of intolerant grace, standing with God against woundedness.  When the world sees that, they will see God.  And they will tremble at His feet.

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