Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Grace Does Not Equal a Sweet Tone of Voice

Jared Wilson has an incendiary post, including an incendiary clip from Mark Driscoll to close it. The clip was the subject of some "hand-wringing" as Jared notes in the beginning. I won't post the video clip and don't really have a comment on it, but I do have an opinion about the assumption of many of the hand-wringers...

Truth is stranger than fiction...a website( devoted to expediating adulterous affairs? I guess it was just a matter of time, but honestly it's hard for me to imagine the shamelessness it takes to bring an idea like that into reality, and to premeditate an affair to the point where you are using something like that. As if pornography wasn't proof that unbridled capitalism will legitimize whatever kind of depravity that people will pay for...but this isn't a post about political ideologies.

I used to want to say things like "where's grace?" in response to opinions like Jared's and clips like Driscoll's. I would have expressed that the love of God covers even such sins as these, and that the primary need is for forgiveness to be extended to the sinner. I would not even now disagree with those last two. My question now would be "what's grace?", not "where's grace?" In other words, what exactly does the grace of God look like for someone who is in the position of, say, Mark Sandford or John Ensign(pols who recently admitted to affairs) or better yet, a Christian pastor who has cheated on his wife?

In a recent post, I expressed that I believe the Gospel alone is responsible for sanctification, and I will hold forth on that until I die. But honestly, it would be nice if us "grace-people" questioned our judgment about what love and grace look like in a given situation as quickly as we question judgmentalism of the moralists. Where exactly to do admonishments like "now, now, God loves sinners; don't be too harsh; don't judge; remember to have grace; nobody's perfect"...etc, come from exactly?

Let's put this in perspective: if I witnessed a small child being brutalized and murdered, or dehumanized as a slave to increase the profit of some ruthless, money-happy dictator/pimp, what should my first reaction be?

" we can't be too judgmental, after all God loves this poor guy" ???!!!

Probably not. In fact, it could be argued that someone with a reaction like this is as criminally insane as the one perpetrating the sin.

The point isn't to apply the law so that people will obey. But to apply the law for what it was originally intended for- to crush man's poisoned and poisionous will. Death precedes resurrection. The Gospel that transforms is not simply one that forgives, but also brings God's character so close that sin looks like exactly what it is: despicable, repulsive, worthy of death, and deserving of being called into the light so all can see what it is that God hates and is doing away with via the Gospel. Are people going to get upset? Yep. Embarassed? You bet. Scream and cry and say "you're no better than me?" Of course I'm not, and may I be equally crushed and embarassed over the sin in me. So that I can be transformed. Remember the scene in the Great Divorce with the lizard on the guy's back? (no? well, go read it...) Let's correct a misjudgment that seems to have permeated some people's understanding: The application of grace = creating happy, comfortable circumstances (i.e. don't get mad) for the sinner.

To paraphrase one un-famous pastor I know, if walk out of the grocery store only to see my best friend slashing my tires in the parking lot, then hastily running off before he's caught, my first reaction is going to be anger, indignation, and regret at making such a person my friend. But when I discover that there's a bomb attached to my ignition, and that had I been able to drive the car, I would have been blown to bits, my opinion of that friend and his actions drastically changes. The only difference is, in the adultery situation, the deadly danger is something that I've done, not something that's been done to me. Honestly now, if your three-year-old daughter were running towards a busy highway, would you speak softly to let her know that she shouldn't go in that direction?

Is every word Driscoll said right on? Was his anger perfectly sanctified and loving? Who knows. Probably not. Does anger, raised voice, application of the law, and calling sinners "fools" and "unworthy" qualify as gracelessness? Not really. You need a lot more to go on then that, like say, the content of the rest of the rebuker's sermons, life, and paradigm. CEO says "people cheat because their lives aren't working for them." Wrong. People cheat because they don't work. And they need to be convinced of that by whatever means necessary, not consoled and given victim status.


Erin Hope said...

love doesn't = fluff

Erin Hope said...

so umm..
2 or 3 you-tube videos and a website visit later.....

I had a fit of anger.
I actually wrote them(that horrible affair website)an email.
and they have a subject label for sending a note to contact customer service.... I put it under 'report abuse'

I thought it was appropriate.