Stone Throwing for Sinners

stones

Part 3 of The Seismic Seven Series

It (trying to keep the law) grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainly out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse. ” – Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

By: Jana Greene

Oy vey, this world is a mess. Right thinking has become wrong thinking, and vice versa. The climate of this country is chaos, and I could go on and on about all the ways society is courting the title of Most Sinful this side of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I could, but I won’t. Because even as the world’s brand is chaos, God is changing my brand to love. I asked him to do a work of compassion in my heart, and boy howdy is he ever.

It’s a tall order. I have my perceptions and holy prejudices in place and there are certain behaviors or lifestyles that really upset my self-righteous apple cart.

But there is this radical thing called Grace that I just cannot shut up about.

As one of the speakers at last week’s conference said: “Sanctification is not a sin-management program.”

Some of my friends are having a hard time figuring this out. They think I am placating the sinful, losing my convictions. Sin is a very big deal; I get that. It’s just not the biggest deal.

We humans love to relegate the sins of ‘those people.’ We take great pride in choosing the stones to throw, as if the perfection of the stone gives us superiority. The weight of the stone in our hand feels good, doesn’t it? Go ahead and throw it, as soon as you are sin-free.

I joke that my heart breaks for the people society casts off – the heroin addicts and the drunks (having struggled with alcoholism myself)  etc. – but if you don’t use proper grammar, I just judge the crap out of you. And using improper grammar isn’t a sin at all, but for some reason it offends me. What’s up with that?

I suspect it’s because grammar comes easy to me. The predisposition NOT to sin in a particular fashion makes it easier to judge the ones to sin in just that manner.

If you do not struggle with homosexuality, heterosexuality comes easy to you – making the lifestyle of a gay person super offensive –  even though every sin is equal to every other. If you are a teetotaler, drunkenness may rate higher on the Sin Scale to you. If you don’t gamble, the pitiful sight of a man dropping token after token in a slot machine for hours on end may not illicit compassion.

There is black and white, right and wrong, by damn! Yet  none of us – lo not even ONE – is going to get it all right in this life.

So much of the Christian faith has become about pointing out the wrongdoings of others,  and driving home the message of how wrongdoing separates one from God.

“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.” – Billy Graham

Nothing can separate you from the love of God. If you are the wickedest person alive, God loves you beyond your capacity to understand.

This is a revelation to me. I didn’t like entertaining the thought because IT’S NOT FAIR. We like things to be fair, right? Our human nature says we must withhold the expression of love when someone displeases us. But God is not bound by our behavior to love us.

Here’s a newsflash: The world already knows what Christ-followers know as ‘sin.’ What they maybe don’t know is the crazy, radical love of Jesus. I don’t need to be Holy Spirit Junior, and that’s incredibly liberating.

I love the way The Mirror Bible translation delves into the subject with commentary…(Romans 7:18-25)

“The total extent and ugliness of sin that inhabits me, reduced my life to good intentions that cannot be followed through. Willpower has failed me; this is how embarrassing it is, the most diligent decision that I make to do good, disappoints; the very evil I try to avoid, is what I do.” Commentary: If mere quality decisions could rescue man, the law would have been enough. Good intentions cannot save man. The revelation of what happened to us in Christ’s death is what brings faith into motion to liberate from within. Faith is not a decision we make to give God a chance, faith is realizing our inclusion in what happened on the Cross and in the resurrection of Christ!

 “If I do the things I do not want to do, then it is clear that I am not evil, but that I host sin in my body against my will….

The situation is absolutely desperate for humankind; is there anyone who can deliver me from this death trap?

… Thank God, this is exactly what he has done through Jesus Christ our Leader; he has come to our rescue! I am finally freed from this conflict between the law of my mind and the law of sin in my body.” Commentary:  If I was left to myself, the best I could do was to try and serve the law of God with my mind, but at the same time continue to be enslaved to the law of sin in my body. Compromise could never suffice.

I can strive and strive and strive, and, like the Apostle Paul, still miss the mark. My striving to live a sinless life does not impress God into loving me harder.

Because His love is already perfect.

If Jesus took care of it to draw us near, why are we still making sin The Biggest Deal? Love people and Holy Spirit will convict them, just as he convicts us holy rollers.

There is this radical thing called Grace that I just cannot shut up about. It is unabashedly, gloriously NOT FAIR, thanks be to God.

May he bless us, every one.

The Church in Us

Wall painting at Lifepoint Church, Wilmington, NC

By: Jana Greene

“And though it is true that the church must always disassociate itself from sin, it can never have any excuse for keeping any sinners at a distance. If the church remains self-righteously aloof from failures, irreligious and immoral people, it cannot enter justified into God’s kingdom. But if it is constantly aware of its guilt and sin, it can live in joyous awareness of forgiveness. The promise has been given to it that anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Brennan Manning

Church.

It is a place and a people, both.

My earliest exposure to church was as a small child in my grandparent’s Baptist congregation in Houston, Texas.  I remember my grandmother carrying me on her vast hip down the aisle, introducing me to other congregants as we passed.  When I sat down next to her for the service, I was surprised to see that everywhere was red.   Inside the proud brick building, pews were deep red velvet, as was the carpet.  Shiny Baptist hymnals were red as well, although many had faded to pink from the sun through stained glass.

“This is God’s house,” I remember her whispering to me.

I had heard about him before – God – in the stories that my grandparents read about all of the animals being crowded into a boat because water was filling up the world,  and about his talking to a man in the belly of a fish.   I told my grandmother that filling the world with water didn’t seem like a very nice thing to do, and she’d chuckled.  She explained that God sent a rainbow as a promise that he would never do it again, and that the flood seemed bad but was really good.  “Noah’s flood meant that God’s people could start all over again.”

She also told me about God’s Son, the Teacher. He lived a long time ago and loved all the people. She said that even though this Teacher was in Heaven with God, He would live in me, too, if I asked.

At thirteen years of age, I asked.

Since that time, I have experienced the Spirit of God many times in churches – and also the stinging judgment of my fellow humans there. So long as services are held on this planet, there will be issues in the churches.  As is true with most tangible things, the church itself is imperfect. It is a divinely touched organic thing, subject to troubles when people forget to offer up Self as a living sacrifice to him.  Sometimes even good people forget.  The church should disassociate itself with sin by virtue of it’s holiness….but there is always hope for sinners.  God’s son, the Teacher, said so.

He has  called us to gather and fellowship anyway.  We need each other. He also said to welcome others into his church just as they are, and to do so with love, to point people to Jesus.

The “place” of church has changed through the years.  Today, services are just as likely to be held in a building that shares walls with a grocery store, or on the sea-side, or in the auditorium of a middle school. Some have sleek décor and play rock music, some deliver messages by simulcast, some are still in proud brick buildings with stained glass and hymnals faded pink by the sun.   There is a church for every taste nowadays, for every spiritual leaning.

But the God of the people in his church is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  His church seems to be growing in passion for the lost ones, those Christ was so passionate about.  Many followers of Jesus  are constantly aware of their guilt and sin in order to spread the awareness of joyous forgiveness.

God’s house should be the perfect place people to start over again, not for keeping sinners at a distance. God’s people should be the loving extension of his grace, a people whose souls are stained a deep, crimson red with his blood.

A place and people full of grace.