A Slap in the Face
So, I've been thinking about grace a lot lately. Sometimes I laugh, because I think of the scene in "Christmas Vacation" where they ask the older lady to say grace, and she says, "Grace passed away years ago...", and her husband says "THE BLESSING!" As I just typed that, I realize how much truth is in that neurotic dialect.
I have to admit that when I watch a movie or a TV show where the bad guy gets punched, kicked, or shot, there's a part of me inside that pumps my fist, because the bad guy had it coming. We call it justice, because the word justice is a very positive and "just" word. I would like to announce that I have found out that Jesus thinks that's a load of crap (He would probably put it much better than me). In fact, Jesus would tell us that our "justice" is really "just-us" seeking revenge. The word revenge is not so positive to us. It's pretty much a dark term. When I think of revenge, I think of someone who is obsessed with getting back at his or her enemy. Revenge is a deadly poison that can ruin you as you're trying to ruin someone else. Jesus talks about it in Mark 5:38-42:
38You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
This is exactly the kind of thing that caused Jesus to be so unpopular with the church leaders of his day, and it is exactly what will make you unpopular with a lot of church leaders in today's society. I love the church, and I think the church is here to stay. The church is doing amazing things in our world, BUT it is not perfect. I have seen some church leaders who seem to be unbalanced in their approach to justice. Jesus said to turn the other cheek, so that your enemy can slap you in the face again, if that's what they have to do. Give them what they want, because God owns it all, and He is in control of it all. The moment we take out our "justice" on the bad guy, is the moment we discount God's Word. Romans 12:19 says:
19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"says the Lord.
Jesus exemplified this. He turned the other cheek, and allowed the Father to be in control. He didn't have some smart, witty come back as He was being humiliated on the cross. He talked about forgiveness, and gave us grace as He received a slap in the face. If we, as Christ-followers, can mature in our belief in God's word. If we can actually believe that God is right, then we will have an impact on this world. I'm afraid that when people think about Christians, they think about negatives. We're attacking people! We're bombing abortion clinics, and discriminating against homosexuals. We're condemning people for their sins, and we haven't addressed the sins of the church. The sad thing is that the world sees our sins and we don't. Sometimes I feel like, just because I'm a Christian, I'm obligated to have certain political views about how we are supposed to run this country. I've been called a "dove", which I guess means I like peace, and not war. What a horrible character trait (sarcasm). I want justice, but not my kind of justice. I need God's justice. It's perfect and balanced. God will never lose his head and He will never go overboard.
Getting back to "Christmas Vacation", the old man had to yell the word "blessing" to his wife to describe grace. Right now, Jesus is holding out a blessing to the church. A blessing that can only be found in grace. I think the hardest part of salvation for people, is that you have to believe in grace. The Bible says, "By grace are you saved..." Grace is hard, because accepting grace means that you can't do it on your own. It's admitting that you are wrong, and that you are in need of forgiveness. Basically, there's no pride in grace. If we, as the church, want to be missional, then we have got to start showing some grace. Let's stop being the moral police, and start showing some tolerance. The reason we heard the gospel is because someone was tolerant enough of our sinfulness to show us Jesus.
Jesus was the ultimate revolutionary. He was progressive. Not in style, but in lifestyle. I think the most evangelistic thing the church could do is to truly accept people for who they are. Let's stop worrying about what offends us, and what annoys us, and start being big-pictured. Next time you get a slap in the face, look at it as an opportunity to paint a beautiful picture of grace and not revenge.