Our new church in Bellingham has recently been hurt by a lot of lies and deceit from a pastor we partner with in the Middle East. The deceit is deep and painful. The lies are elaborate and heart breaking. Stealing and lying to the church in too many ways to count. Justifiably so, the leadership in our church was hurt and disappointed. What do we do during this time? If we are honest, I think a lot of our inner conversation goes a lot like this, "As a Christian, he should know better." "He's a pastor! Who let that guy be a pastor?" "How did no one see this coming?" Can we be even more honest? I thought each of these things while sitting there in church. And then I thought; if a man like that, with all that accountability, can get to the point of doing all this... can't we all? Aren't we all capable of terrible things? And aren't all sins equal? Then what separates me from him or you from him?
You see, grace is a tricky thing. We all love grace. Who wouldn't love grace? Grace is freely given from the hand of God to an undeserving sinner who did nothing to earn it. Grace is good. But grace is completely against human nature. Our reaction is usually not to show someone grace immediately after they have verbally assaulted you or stole your purse out of your shopping cart in Target. Your reaction is to get pissed or hurt. Grace is what follows when we take a second to think about how we should react or for Christians, what the Christ like response is. Grace is hard. But gosh, grace is so good.
Another thing I realized about grace in the last couple years is that it seems to be reserved for people when they are being saved, when we as Christians are repenting or when we are showing grace to non believers. We are not good at showing other Christians grace. We hold each other to higher standards that grace doesn't seem to cover a lot of the time. Should we be held to higher standards? Hell yes. Does that mean we are incapable of falling? Most definitely not. We are still sinners! Even when our sin is cleaned and washed away, we will still sin. We will be sinning until Jesus comes back people. Praise Jesus that his grace covers that too. In my best southern preacher voice, "can I get an amen?"
I used to think that the most gracious thing that God had shown me was forgiving and washing me clean of my sins that I had done before I knew Him. I knew what a hot mess I was outside of Jesus. I thought, "wow, what kind of God would see me as white as snow?" But you know what? That wasn't half of the amount of grace that Jesus has shown me. He said, I forgive you of all of your sins. ALL of them. All of them from beginning to end. Before you followed me and after. That is freedom at it's core. I am not tied to all the sins, before or after salvation. That doesn't mean live like hell, that means I choose to follow a God that would love me enough to freely give that to me.
Why can't we show each other that grace? Why can't we meet each other where we are at the way Jesus does? That doesn't mean staying in your mess, that means lifting each other up, graciously saying, "you messed up, but I forgive you and this does not define you." That is grace. Lets give each other, as Christians, the grace to make mistakes, or we are all going to be hiding our sin in the dark. The dark wants to hide our sins. The dark loves our sins. The dark is calling us, craving our sins, feeding on them. But we don't need to hide, we need to be bold enough to seek forgiveness, restoration and crave grace. Jesus is holding it in his hand openly for whoever seeks it.
When our pastor told us the story of this pastor who had gone off path, something beautiful came out of it. There was joy. Joy because God isn't done with that story. Joy because people gave willingly to Jesus and it is Jesus alone that is in charge of that money, even if it isn't where we thought it was going. To see the church choose grace over revenge or justice is beautiful. That is a church I can get behind. A church that's actions reflect it's doctrine. A church that says we will do the opposite of what the world says we should. Instead of anger and ill wishing, we will pray for him and choose to show grace where it isn't deserved. That is Jesus. We need to be more like Jesus and less like ourselves, showing undeserving grace when other people might think we are crazy.
There are so many stories of when we as a church miss the mark. I am so unbelievably moved to be a part of our church that nailed it. Grace is so good.