Pam wrote after yesterday’s Catch:
Thank you so much. This is something that has been reaching into my heart lately too. My son, who has wandered from the Lord, is dating a girl I have not met, but I know she is trying to get out of a drug culture, that she smokes and that she is going to a recovery program for alcohol. There was a time in my life when I would have despaired that this kind of person was entering the sphere of our family. But I have seen my own sin more deeply, in the last few years (a season of trial, failure and loss) and have begun to understand God’s grace more deeply (still have a long way to go!).
So, instead of the fear and condemnation I would have imagined coming from my heart toward this new girl in my son’s life, I find myself praying for her and hoping that I have an opportunity to show her grace and love. May we all walk steadily forward toward redemption, because we are all on the same road.
Beautifully put, and I pass it on today because Pam has stated in clear and certain terms, the essence of grace turned outward. It is grace received and grace given. One thing. Not two different things. They are intertwined, much like the act of breathing consists of both breathing in and breathing out. Grace received is grace given. And because they are one and the same thing, you can turn that around and say that the one who cannot or does not give grace is someone who has not received grace. You can turn it upside down and inside out and it’s all the same thing: grace received is grace given … grace given is grace received.
The mere fact that Christians in general have gotten a reputation for being judgmental, condemnatory or unforgiving tells us there is a graceless Christianity present in our culture that is a counterfeit gospel. It is not Christianity missing some of its parts; it is not Christianity at all. It is a false faith. It is the pride of the Pharisees disguised as a born-again believer.
I will go as far as to say that a person who is incapable of having the attitude Pam has here towards anyone is a person who, regardless of what they say or do, what level of Christian virtue they have reached, or what level of authority or responsibility in the church they hold, knows nothing of God’s grace in his or her own life.
The cure for this false, counterfeit Christianity? It is seeing, as Pam has said, “my own sin more deeply.”
The new covenant teaches that whenever anyone turns to the Lord the veil is taken away (2 Corinthians 3:16). Why is that? Because when you turn to the Lord, whatever you were using to cover up your sin and pride is stripped away, and you and everyone else sees who you really are — a man or woman in need of forgiveness like everyone else; and in the vulnerability of that discovery, we all dissolve into each other’s arms amazed at the mercy of God. Yes, at that point you are embracing the most dislikable creatures you would have formerly judged or separated yourself from. (Or I love the way Pam said it: “I would have despaired that this kind of person was entering the sphere of our family.” Perfect.)
Again, as is written in 1 John 1:7, when we walk in the light we have fellowship with one another, because the light shows us all up as we really are. You can’t walk in the light and hide your sin and look down on someone else’s sin. It can’t be done. The light is all-revealing. It’s a vulnerable, scary, wonderful thing to walk in the light.
This is grace turned outward, and the fact that judgment thrives in the house of God tells me that the church is desperately in need of this message. And here’s the exciting part … that’s what we’re here for. Passing on the Gospel of Welcome — grace turned outward — is our mission. Thank you, Pam for helping us see it through your own experience. We need more stories like this.