First, I know my title is not very delicate, but these are not delicate times. It’s like everyone in America decided to go out this week and make a mess of their lives. Eliot Spitzer confessed to spending enormous amounts of money for sex with call girls. China, who is trying garner a better image in the world by hosting the Olympics, fired teargas on some Tibetan monks. The plainspoken Geraldine Ferraro declares that Obama is only doing so well in the Presidential race because he is a black man. And then in trying to clarify what she meant made an even bigger mess. AND she doesn’t seem to know it. David Archuleta forgot his lyrics last night. And to top it all off, everyone’s favorite islander Mary Ann is busted for dope. Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan have a lot to be thankful for this week. The spotlight is on someone else for a change.
Mistakes. Lack of judgment. Undercover antics. Darkness exposed. Intentional misdirection. Whatever we want to call it we really have to be careful in our outrage and disappointment.
The masses are calling for Spitzer’s resignation. Don’t you find that odd that in a culture that rejects moral absolutes, Christianity, and proclaims freedom from the judgments of other people? Upon what basis do the people of New York call for his resignation? Finanical improprieties are yet unproven. Is it because he participated in illicit sexual behavior? We had a President caught in the same situation that did not resign, and even lied about his failure under oath. If sexual impurity is cause for political resignation, then I think we would probably have to hold mass elections in our country. That doesn’t make it right, but it does expose our willingness to highlight the sins of others and to hold them more accountable than we hold ourselves. We probably do not have to think too hard to remember the last time we stepped in poo-poo.
I’m not at all suggesting that we shrug our shoulders or that we simply ignore what is going on around us. More importantly I’m not suggesting that we give ourselves a free ticket when it comes to our own failings. What I am suggesting is a healthy view of grace…and the practice of it.
Grace is Not Permission. Romans 6:1 says in part, Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? I do hope that grace increases as needed (and who can claim it is no longer needed?). But I do think that the belief that our sins do not matter because of grace is a convenient untruth. Grace actually leads us in the opposite direction. For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age… (Titus 2:11-12). Sin matters to God. So much so that he allowed his Son to experience the cross in order to relieve us of our burden. We dare not treat it lightly.
Grace is Freedom. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8). This is the great escape from our lives that are marked by episodes of stepping in poo-poo. It is not our ability and agility that saves us, it is God’s gracious gift. Romans 6:23 says it this way: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. I breathe a sigh of relief when I read these promises from God. After all, I’ve earned death many times over, but God has set me free from the law of sin and death by his grace. The death threat has been removed and a life-promise has taken it’s place.
Grace Demands To Be Shared. And now the rub. It is not OK to claim grace for yourself, and works for others. Grace demands to be shared. We have been treated with unbelievable grace … so how do we get to hold other people’s feet to the fire of judgment? For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:2). Do I really want to be judged in the same way that I judged others? Again, that does not demand that I overlook the sins of others or pretend that everyone is okie dokie with God. But I think it does demand that I not delight in the sins of others. I think it demands that I am prepared to show people who have stepped in poo-poo in their life how God can give them new life. I think it demands that I treat others with a spirit of love and understanding … rather than ostrasize them for their mistakes.
I’m not sure how all that plays out in the political world. I’m getting nearer to a Lipscomb-ish viewpoint these days. But I do know that given the opportunity I could kindly help Spitzer to know the grace of God (if he doesn’t already) and the way that God can help him begin his life again. I think grace could help China’s leaders. I believe Geraldine could benefit from a dose of grace as she speaks about other people. I can forgive David Archuleta for forgetting the lyrics last night … that boy wasn’t even born when the Beatles were making music! And I can hope that Mary Ann gets the help she needs so that she can have the life she’d really like to have.
But you know, I mostly want the grace of God to reign in my own heart. I need his continuing flow of mercy and forgiveness. I freely confess to being one who steps in poo-poo and doesn’t seem to know how to avoid it. I would not want to experience a day outside of His loving arms. I believe that God never chases us away or drops us off at the curb. Even when we have made the biggest mess of things. I love the song lyric that speaks of grace that is greater than all my sin.
What are your thoughts? Thanks for reading.
Bring back the Fin!
PS: Yesterday was a record-breaking day in terms of views of this blog. Thanks!