Archives For forgiveness

Scandalous Grace

randomlychad  —  July 25, 2012 — 5 Comments

Friends, I appreciate your show of support here by honoring what I was trying to say.

It has been brought to my attention that what I wrote could be construed as insensitive in light of the fact that there is a community trying to rebuild in Aurora– people are still suffering, grieving.

I think of that mother, lying in the hospital, coming in and out of consciousness, not knowing that her six year-old is gone. How would she feel reading my words?

My wife and I have a six year-old. How would we feel had we lost her?

It is easy to speak truth, but having not walked in their shoes, I felt it best to save “Scandalous Grace” for another day.

I hope you understand.

>Le magliette di Prisciandarophoto © 2005 Simone Ramella | more info (via: Wylio)

Jeffrey Dahmer Is In Heaven, But You May Not Make It

     I’ve been traveling around the blogosphere a bit recently, and came across an excellent post on Rachel Held Evans’s blog regarding the eternal fate of Anne Frank. This got me to thinking about salvation, and who does, and does not, “get into heaven.” Honestly, I think we spend entirely too much time and breath wondering about this (and not looking to our own souls). I’m fairly certain that when God said He wasn’t willing that “any should perish, but that all should should come to repentance,” He meant it. And what about Jesus’s own statement about “drawing all men unto me?” Pretty sure He meant that, too. Instead of speculating about who, or who isn’t there, or who will, or won’t, go, it would be far more beneficial for us to take His message out into the highways and byways. That’s our obligation: to share the Gospel. It’s real simple: if the message isn’t received, we move on to the next person, and the next, and the next. We do the proclamation, and leave the reception up to God.
     In all this, it would do us good to remember that “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” Fact is, we never know when one of those seeds we plant will take root, and grow into a saving relationship with Christ. If the Book of Job is any indication, God isn’t really into giving us any more information on His “sovereign plan of the ages” than what He’s already revealed in the Bible. We probably couldn’t understand it anyway. (I realize none of this prohibits us from speculating, from asking questions, from wondering what He’s up to, but if Job, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes are any indications, it’s not God that’s uncomfortable with our questions, but ourselves). What we already know is that grace isn’t fair, that it isn’t just.
     According to this account, the heinous Jeffrey Dahmer received Christ in prison sometime before he was beaten to death. On the flip side, we’re told that those who fail to forgive, won’t be forgiven themselves. Putting this all together means that the family members, friends—perhaps even ourselves, outraged as we are at his acts—of Dahmer’s victims risk their souls by not forgiving. But Dahmer himself may in fact be in heaven already, because he was forgiven by God in Christ. That is not fair, that is not justice, but it is the scandalous nature of grace. God is no respecter of persons. Think of the thief on the cross, with his eleventh-hour confession: he didn’t live “an effective life for Christ,” but nevertheless found himself in paradise. Thus it seems to me that God will accept all who recognize in their own hearts their need for Him. This may, or may not, take a form that we Evangelicals recognize, but what’s that to us? We are to follow Him. He knows who His sheep are.

>Gay Pride Parade 2010 - Dublinphoto © 2010 William Murphy | more info(via: Wylio)

     I don’t support gay rights, because I don’t believe Jesus did. On the other hand, neither do I support discrimination. And I don’t support discrimination because Jesus didn’t. His message—the Gospel—was a message for all. Including those who identify as gay. Like Jesus, I support basic human rights: every person has a right to be treated with a dignity befitting who they are: a human being. Including gays, lesbians, and the transgendered. Jesus died for them just the same as He died for you and me; in fact, there is no us and them: there’s just us—all of us—in this lifeboat called earth where we’re doing life together.
     Right now, I would probably be remiss if I didn’t admit that I interpret certain Scriptures differently, hold to a more historically conservative theology, than perhaps some of these dear people for whom Jesus died. None of which absolves me—absolves us—from behaving in anything less than a loving fashion towards our fellow human beings, who are made in God’s image. I’m not here to debate whether homosexuality is a sin, or not, but what I am attempting to accomplish is tear down some of the walls of bitterness and resentment that exist on both sides of this divide. Even if we come down on the side that says homosexual behavior is a sin, we need to ask ourselves how did Jesus treat sinners?
     Listen, while I realize that the earliest manuscripts may not contain John 7:53-8:11, nevertheless I think it’s beneficial to ask ourselves just how did Jesus treat the woman (where was the guy?) caught in adultery? He gave the far harsher rebuke to her accusers: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” To her, he was far more gentle, and said “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” Pop quiz: who among them—among us—is without sin? None of them, thus none of us as well. So let’s stop throwing stones, ok? And be about the business of loving people to Jesus. There is no room in His kingdom for the kind of discrimination that puts any people group outside of His love. He said in John 12:32 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” All people—not just the elect. All people. Even those we don’t like, don’t understand, don’t agree with, or who hate us.
As regards those who hate us, we are under specific orders from our King: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:43-48) Hard words, those. Not easy to do, but required. We are compelled to both love and pray for our enemies—this applies equally to those on both sides of this cultural divide.
Lest you think I’m jesting at scars that never felt wounds, you need to know that I know the sting of being singled out, of being called gay—because it happened to me during sixth, and seventh, grades. While I’m not gay, it still wasn’t a good time in my life. My parents were going through a divorce, and I just didn’t know my place in the world anymore. Maybe other kids sensed this. I don’t know. I do know that, on at least one occasion, I had to fight a kid I didn’t even know to defend my reputation, to prove that I wasn’t gay. He bloodied my nose. Later on, I pummeled the crap out of him between classes. Not one of my prouder moments. I was left alone after that fight, but for my sake—for my soul’s sake—I had to forgive those who hurt me with their words, with their fists. Even if it was never to their faces, even if it was just in my heart, I had to forgive. I wasn’t hurting anyone else by holding a grudge, was in fact no better than my accusers. So I had to let it go.
Right now, I would like to offer a sincere apology to every gay, lesbian, bi, or transgendered person who’s been vilified, teased, harassed, or bullied in the name of Jesus–’cause that’s just not Jesus. I want to apologize for every “God hates fags” sign trotted out by the Westboro folks. God doesn’t, or he wouldn’t have sent his son to die for them—for us. (I would like to get snarky here, and ask everyone who’s reading to join me in praying that “Pastor” Fred and his followers be converted to Calvinism—so that they would just leave people alone. But that is neither fair to Calvinists, nor is it loving. So please just join me in praying for these seriously misguided folks (see verse quoted above about praying for enemies). It’s things like this that give the rest of us—who are trying to love as Jesus did—a black eye. We lose credibility in ministering to the hurting. We lose trust. I’m very sorry these things are happening, and I’m sorry they’re happening to you. As a representative of Jesus, would you please forgive me?
In conclusion, I said above that I don’t support gay rights. And I meant it: I don’t support them, but only because I do support basic human rights for all. Everyone deserves to be treated as Jesus would treat them. Either his love is for everybody, or it’s for nobody. And it behooves us to get with God’s program. That is the radical nature of grace. I’ll leave you with this: “You know that we Jews [religious people] are not allowed to have anything to do with other people [folks not like us]. But God has shown me that he doesn’t think anyone is unclean or unfit” (Acts 10:28, CEV). (All Scripture quotations taken from ESV, unless otherwise noted).