Random Notes From What I’m Reading

The story of my life is the story of my faith…

Embrace, Don’t Abandon

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I’ve been meeting every other week at Starbucks with a pastor who had an affair with an employee at his megachurch. A few months ago his actions were found out; he left his ministry disgraced and is now going through a vicious divorce. It’s not an unusual story and one that I sadly deal with in my line of work.  And though this story is heartbreaking, I’m afraid there is something even more tragic that has occured in this man’s life. You see this incredibly popular and well-loved pastor now finds himself abandoned by those in the Christian community. When the ugly news got out about his indiscretions, people stopped called, the invitations to lunch dried up, and he was asked not to be involved in his small group any longer.

I’m not sure how it happened exactly, but it seems that grace, which is Christianity’s most core issue, is struggling to survive. It also appears from the findings of people surveyed, that the church has seriously lost its way on this issue. Our culture doesn’t look at us as a faith of second chances but rather as a religion of judgement. I had a friend tell me recently0 that in his opinion, it seems like the teachings of Jesus haven’t really rubbed off on his followers. I’m afraid at some level he is right.

Out of all the current negative perceptions of Christians, this one in particular demands our highest priority. Grace is our central issue, and for us to simply ignore this finding will certainly  be our unhinging. We will slide down the slipper slope toward irrevelence, and our message of the gospel will no longer be credible in our culture. Why? Because it appears at some level that the secular world is capable of “doing grace” better than we are. Christianity’s main export has been co-opted to non-believers. Forgiveness, compassion and second chances are common occurences as demonstrated by several recent high-profile cases. Whether it’s a movie stars addictions, a beauty queens indiscretions, or a run-in with the law, grace seems to be flourishing in the secular arena. A quick trip to rehab or a heartfelt apology is payment enough in our secular society. When Donald Trump becomes the poster boy for second chances and the church is viewed as a place of judgment… we have a serious problem.

So how do we become people who are known for grace? First, we must admit that we have a problem. We can’t continue to pretend that church is a place of grace if fundamentally we kick to the curb those within our very own community who screw up. If we can’t forgive our pastors, leaders, and friends, then how could we possibly begin to forgive others? My “Starbucks pastor” needs to be embraced, not abandoned. We must begin by loving each other, forgiving each other, and carrying each other’s burdens, especially when we fail. When a brother or sister is steamrolled by life, we don’t run from them, we rally around them.

Second, we must engage with the people whom we have been taught to stay away from for too long. We must boldly enter into the environments where grace flourishes and does its best work. Christian insulation and a safe life are not what you and I signed up for when we said we would follow Jesus. He was never insulted from people’s pain, and he sure didn’t keep to safe places. He engaged with those who were being crushed by their mistakes and bad choices. Jesus wiped away the tears of the prostitutes, held the hands of the outcasts, and touched the wounds of the sick and the crazy. he hung with the not-so-perfect people of the world and showed them what Christianity was all about.  He was never concerned about a person’s title, society’s name tag, or the sign on their place of work. Porn stars or preachers, gay or straight, Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t mean a rip to God. We are all His children, and we are all in need of this stunningly beautiful thing called grace. We know what we need to do, now let’s go do it.

Mike Foster, founder XXXchurch.com

Written by Ryan

February 11, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Posted in Books, Christian

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